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in 2010 



http://www.archive.org/details/harvardclassics021elio 




'''He sprang up impetuously in his bed' 
—Page 361 
(From the painting by G. Previati) 



THE HARVARD CLASSICS 

EDITED BY CHARLES W ELIOT LL D 






I PROMESSI SPOSI 

(THE BETROTHED) 
BY ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES 
VOLUME 21 




P F COLLIER & SON COMPANY 
NEW YORK 



/^ f 

' Copyright, 1909 

By p. F. Collier & Son 

manufactured in u. s. a. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Chapter I 7 

Chapter II.,.. 25 

Chapter III •..• 39 

Chapter IV ^ 55 

Chapter V „ 71 

Chapter VI 86 

Chapter VII 100 

Chapter VIII . 119 

Chapter IX 141 

Chapter X 162 

Chapter XI 185 

Chapter XII 204 

Chapter XIII 219 

Chapter XIV c . 235 

Chapter XV 251 

Chapter XVI 268 

Chapter XVII 285 

Chapter XVIII 302 

Chapter XIX 318 

Chapter XX 333 

Chapter XXI 348 

Chapter XXII 364 

Chapter XXIII ^n 

Chapter XXIV 396 

Chapter XXV 423 

Chapter XXVI 438 

Chapter XXVII ..••««,«. 454 

HO \ i— Vol. 21 



2 CONTENT?^- 

PAGE 

Chapter XXVIII .....,.,..*,.... 470 

Chapter XXIX , 493 

Chapter XXX 508 

Chapter XXXI 521 

Chapter XXXII 539 

Chapter XXXIII 557 

Chapter XXXIV . 578 

Chapter XXXV » . 600 

Chapter XXXVI 614 

Chapter XXXVII 635 

Cbtapter XXXyUX .,.,•... . . 6so 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Count Alessandro Manzoni was horn at Milan, Italy, March 
7, ^7^5' He was educated at Lugano, Milan, and Pavia, and after 
taking his degree he joined his mother in Paris, where he found 
her in the circle of Mme. Condorcet and the surviving rationalists 
of the eighteenth century. These associations led him for a time 
into scepticism, hut he was later converted to Catholicism, and 
remained a steadfast adherent of that faith till his death, de- 
fending it in his writings against the Protestant historian Sis- 
mondi. Mansoni was a warm sympathizer with the aspirations 
of his country toward political independence, hut he took no very 
active part in public agitation. When Italy was at last free, he 
was made a Senator and awarded a pension. He died at Milan, 
May 22, 18/3. 

Manzoni's most important literary productions are in poetry, 
drama, and the novel. In the first group he wrote some hymns, 
notahle for the warmth of their religious sentiment, and two odes, 
''II cinque maggio" and "Marso 1821." The former of these, on 
the death of Napoleon, first brought him fame. Plis dramatic 
compositions, "II Conte di Carmagnola" and "Adelchi," represent 
an attempt to free Italian drama from the restraints of the 
classical conventions, hut neither met with general approval in 
Italy. Goethe, however, reviezved the earlier in the most favor- 
able terms. In a prefatory essay Mansoni made an important 
contribution to the romantic protest against the restrictions of the 
dramatic "unities'* of the classical drama. But the Italians were 
not yet prepared to accept truth in the treatm.,ent of human nature 
in place of stylistic polish and conventional form. . 

The reception given to Manzoni's masterpiece, "I Promessi 
Sposi'* (1825-26) was very different. In form a historical novel, 
written at a time when the vogue of the Waverley Novels had 
stimulated the production of this form of fiction throughout 
Europe, the interest of "The Betrothed," as it is usually called 
in England, is rather psychological and sentimental than external. 
The scene is laid in Lomhardy between 162S and 1631, and the 
plot deals with the thwarting of the love of two peasants by a 
local tyrant. The manners of the time are presented with great 
vividness and picturesqueness ; one of the most notable elements 

3 



4 INTRODUCTION 

being the elaborate description of the plague which devastated 
Milan in 1630 (See Chaps, xxxi-xxxvii). The novel has taken 
a place as the most distinguished novel of modern Italy, and has 
been translated into nearly all the literary languages. 

The age-long dispute as to which dialect should be used as the 
standard language of Italian prose engaged the interest of Man- 
soni in his later years; and, becoming convinced of the claims of 
Tuscan, he rewrote the entire novel in order to remove all traces 
of non-Tuscan idiom, and published it in 1840. This proceeding 
had the eifect of rekindling the discussion on the question of a 
national Italian literary language — a discussion which still goes 
on. Along with the revised edition of *'I Promessi SposiJ' he 
published a kind of sequel, ^'La Storia della Colonna infame," 
written more than ten years before; but this work, overloaded 
with didacticism, is universally regarded as inferior. Both at 
home and abroad, Mansoni's fame rests mainly on the novel here 
printed, a work which has taken its place among the great novels 
of the world, not merely for its admirable descriptions of Italian 
life in the seventeenth century, but still more for its faithful 
and moving presentation of human experience and emotion. 

Mention has been made above of a so-called sequel to ''I 
Promessi Sposi" ; and since this publication is less easily accessible 
than Manzoni's more famous works, being properly regarded as 
unworthy of a place beside his great novel, it may interest the 
reader to have some account of its contents. 

At the end of Chapter xxxii of "I Promessi Sposi," Manzoni 
refers to the affair of the anointers of Milan, men who were 
suspected of smearing the walls of the houses with poison in- 
tended to spread the pestilence ; but he relegates to another place 
a full account of the incident. It is this matter which he takes 
up in ''La Storia della Colonna infame." 

One morning in June, 1630, a woman standing at a window in 
Milan saw a man enter the street della Vetra de Cittadini. He 
carried a paper on which he appeared to be writing, and from 
time to time he drew his hands along the walls. It occurred to 
her that he was perhaps an "anointer," and she proceeded to 
spread her suspicion, with the result that the man was arrested. 
He was found to be one Piazza, a Commissioner of the Tribunal 
of Health, who was able to give such an account of himself as. 



INTRODUCTION 5 

m ordinary times, would have led to his immediate acquittal. 
Both the populace and the judges, however, were panic-stricken, 
and eager to vent on any victim the fear and anguish into which 
the ravages of the plague had plunged them. Piasza was ac- 
cordingly tortured, and after repeated and horrible sufferings was 
induced to make a false confession and to implicate an innocent 
barber, who, he said, had given him the ointment and promised 
him money if he spread it on the houses. Mora, the barber, was 
next arrested and submitted to a similar illegal and infamous 
process, until he also confessed, throwing the burden of blame 
in turn upon Piazza. Under false promises of immunity and sug- 
gestions of what was wanted from them, they alleged that several 
other persons were their accomplices or principals, and these also 
were thrown into jail. The evidence of Mora and of Piazza was 
mutually contradictory on many points and was several times re- 
tracted, but the judges ignored these matters, broke their promise 
of immunity, and condemned both to death. They were placed 
on a car to be carried to the place of execution; as they pro- 
ceeded, their bodies were gashed zvith a hot iron; their right 
hands were struck off as they passed Mora's shop ; their bones 
were broken on the wheel; they were bound alive to the wheel 
and raised from the ground, and after six hours were put to 
death. This they bore with fortitude, having previously declared 
their innocence, retracted their confessions, and absolved their 
alleged accomplices. Mora's house was demolished, and a pillar, 
called the Column of Infamy, was erected on the spot, where 
it stood till 177S. 

After the m^urder of these two miserable men, the judges pro- 
ceeded to press the cases against the others whose names had 
been dragged into the matter, one of whom was an officer called 
Padilla, son of the Commandant of the Castle of Milan. Several 
of these suffered the same tortures and death as Mora and 
Piazza; but Padilla's case dragged on for two years, at the end 
of which he was acquitted. 

The story of this terrible example of judicial cruelty had been 
to some extent cleared up by Verri in his book on Torture, but 
Manzoni was anxious to show that, evil as were the laws which 
permitted the use of the rack, it was not they but the judges who 
were responsible. For even the laws of torture prohibited the 
methods by which these men were made to inculpate themselves. 



6 INTRODUCTION 

ajid the illegality and monstrosity of the whole proceeding zvere 
attributable to a court eager for a conviction at all costs to 
gratify the thirst for blood of a maddened and ignorant populace. 
The incident is related by Manzoni with considerable diffuse- 
ness and much technical argument; but the frightful nature of 
the events and the exhibition of the psychology of a panic 
stricken mob give the production a gruesome interest 




PROMESSI SPOSI 



CHAPTER I 

jHAT branch of the lake of Como, which extends 
towards the south, is enclosed by two unbroken chains 
of mountains, which, as they advance and recede, 
diversify its shores with numerous bays and inlets. Sud- 
denly the lake contracts itself, and takes the course and 
form of a river, between a promontory on the right, and a 
wide open shore on the opposite side. The bridge which there 
joins the two banks seems to render this transformation more 
sensible to the eye, and marks the point where the lake ends, 
and the Adda again begins — soon to resume the name of the 
lake, v/here the banks receding afresh, allow the water tQ 
extend and spread itself in new gulfs and bays. 

The open country, bordering the lake, formed of the allu- 
vial deposits of three great torrents, reclines upon the roots 
of two contiguous mountains, one named San Martino, the 
other, in the Lombard dialect, // Resegone, because of its 
many peaks seen in profile, which in truth resemble the teeth 
of a saw so much so, that no one at first sight, viewing it in 
front (as, for example, from the northern bastions of Milan), 
could fail to distinguish it by this simple description, from 
the other mountains of more obscure name and ordinary 
form in that long and vast chain. For a considerable distance 
the country rises with a gentle and continuous ascent; after- 
wards it is broken into hill and dale, terraces and elevated 
plains, formed by the intertwining of the roots of the two 
mountains, and the action of the waters. The shore itself, in- 
tersected by the torrents, consists for the most part of gravel 
and large flints ; the rest of the plain, of fields and vineyards^ 
interspersed with tov/ns, villages, and hamlets: other parts 
are clothed with woods, extending far ug the mountain, 

? 



8 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Lecco, the principal of these towns, giving its name to the 
territor};^, is at a short distance from the bridge, and so close 
upon the shore, that, when the waters are high, it seems to 
stand in the lake itself. A large town even now, it promises 
soon to become a city. At the time the events happened which 
we undertake to recount, this town, already of considerable 
importance, was also a place of defence, and for that reason 
had the honour of lodging a commander, and the advantage 
of possessing a fixed garrison of Spanish soldiers, who taught 
modesty to the damsels and matrons of the country ; bestowed 
from time to time marks of their favour on the shoulder of a 
husband or a father ; and never failed, in autumn, to disperse 
themselves in the vineyards, to thin the grapes, and lighten 
for the peasant the labours of the vintage. 

From one to the other of these towns, from the heights to 
the lake, from one height to another, down through the little 
valleys which lay between, there ran many narrow lanes or 
mule-paths, (and they still exist,) one while abrupt and 
steep, another level, another pleasantly sloping, in most places 
enclosed by walls built of large flints, and clothed here and 
there with ancient ivy, which, eating with its roots into the 
cement, usurps its place, and binds together the wall it ren- 
ders verdant. For some distance these lanes are hidden, and 
as it were buried between the walls, so that the passenger, 
looking upwards, can see nothing but the sky and the peaks 
of some neighbouring mountain: in other places they are 
terraced: sometimes they skirt the edge of a plain, or project 
from the face of a declivity, like a long staircase, upheld by 
walls which flank the hillsides like bastions, but in the path- 
way rise only the height of a parapet — and here the eye of 
the traveller can range over varied and most beautiful pros- 
pects. On one side he commands the azure surface of the lake, 
and the inverted image of the rural banks reflected in the 
placid wave ; on the other, the Adda, scarcely escaped from the 
arches of the bridge, expands itself anew into a little lake, 
then is again contracted, and prolongs to the horizon its 
bright windings ; upward, — the massive piles of the mountains, 
overhanging the head of the gazer ; below, — 'the cultivated ter- 
race, the champaign, the bridge ; opposite, — the further bank 
of the lake, and, rising from it, the mountain boundary. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 9 

Along one of these narrow lanes, in the evening of the 
7th of November, in the year 1628, Don Abbondio . . ., 
curate of one of the towns alluded to above, was leisurely 
returning home from a walk, (our author does not mention 
the name of the town — two blanks already !) He was quietly 
repeating his office*, and now and then, between one psalm 
and another, he would shut the breviary upon the fore-finger 
of his right hand, keeping it there for a mark; then, putting 
both his hands behind his back, the right (with the closed 
book) in the palm of the left, he pursued his way with down- 
cast eyes, kicking, from time to time, towards the wall the 
flints which lay as stumbling-blocks in the path. Thus he 
gave more undisturbed audience to the idle thoughts which 
had come to tempt his spirit, while his lips repeated, of their 
own accord, his evening prayers. Escaping from these 
thoughts, he raised his eyes to the mountain which rose 
opposite; and mechanically gazed on the gleaming of the 
scarcely set sun, which, making its way through the clefts 
of the opposite mountain, was thrown upon the projecting 
peaks in large unequal masses of rose-coloured light. Thf^ 
breviary open again, and another portion recited, he reached 
a turn, where he always used to raise his eyes and look for- 
ward; and so he did to-day. After the turn, the road ran 
straight forward about sixty yards, and then divided into 
two lanes, Y fashion — the right hand path ascended towards 
the mountain, and led to the parsonage: the left branch 
descended through the valley to a torrent: and on this side 
the walls were not higher than about two feet. The inner 
walls of the two ways, instead of m.eeting so as to form aii 
angle, ended in a little chapel, on which were depicted cer- 
tain figures, long, waving, and terminating in a point. These, 
in the intention of the artist, and to the eyes of the neigh- 
bouring inhabitants, represented flames. Alternately with 
the flames were other figures — indescribable, meant for souls 
in purgatory, souls and flames of brick-colour on a grey 
ground enlivened with patches of the natural wall, where the 
plaster was gone. The curate, having turned the corner, 
and looked forward, as was his custom, towards the chapel, 
beheld an unexpected sight, and one he v/ould not willingly 
have seen. Two men, one opposite the other, were stationed 



10 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

at the confluence, so to say, of the two ways: one of them 
was sitting across the low vv^all, with one leg dangling on the 
outer side, and the other supporting him in the path: his 
companion was standing up, leaning against the wall, with 
his arms crossed on his breast. Their dress, their carriage, 
and so much of their expression as could be distinguished 
at the distance at which the curate stood, left no doubt about 
their condition. Each had a green net on his head, which 
fell upon the left shoulder, and ended in a large tassel. Their 
long hair, appearing in one large lock upon the forehead: 
on the upper lip two long mustachios, curled at the end : their 
doublets, confined by bright leathern girdles, from which 
hung a brace of pistols: a little horn of powder, dangling 
round their necks, and falling on their breasts like a neck- 
lace: on the right side of their large and loose pantaloons, 
a pocket, and from the pocket the handle of a dagger: a 
sword hanging on the left, v/ith a large basket-hilt of brass, 
carved in cipher, polished and gleaming: — all, at a glance, 
discovered them to be individuals of the species bravo. 

This order, now quite extinct, was then most flourishing 
in Lombardy, and already of considerable antiquity. Has any 
one no clear idea of it? Here are some authentic sketches, 
which may give him a distinct notion of its principal charac- 
teristics, of the means put in force to destroy it, and of its 
obstinate vitality. 

On the 8th of April, 1583, the most Illustrious and Excel- 
lent Signor Don Carlo d'Aragon, Prince of Castelvetrano, 
Duke of Terranuova, Marquis of Avola, Count of Burgeto, 
grand Admiral, and grand Constable of Sicily, Governor of 
Milan, and Captain-General of His Catholic Majesty in 
Italy, being fully informed of the intolerable misery in which 
this city of Milan has lain, and does lie, by reason of bravoes 
and vagabonds, publishes a ban against them, declares and 
defines all those to be included in this ban, and to be held 
bravoes and vagabonds zvho, whether foreigners or natives, 
have no occupation, or having it do not employ themselves 
in it , , . but zvithout salary, or zvith, engage themselves, 
to any cavaliner or gentleman, officer or merchant . . . 
to render them aid and service, or rather, as 'may be pre- 
sumed, to lay wait against others ... .all these he 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 11 

commands, that, within the term of six days, they should 
evacuate the country, threatens the galleys to the refractor}?-, 
and grants to all officials the most strangely ample and indefi- 
nite power of executing the order. But the following year, 
on the I2th of April, this same Signer, perceiving that this 
city is completely full of the said hravoes . * . returned 
to live as they had lived before, their customs wholly un- 
changed, and their numbers undiminished, issues another 
hue and cry, m-ore vigorous and marked, in which, among 
other ordinances, he prescribes — That whatsoever person, 
as well as inhabitant of this city as a foreigner, who by the 
testimony of two witnesses, shoidd appear to be held and 
commonly reputed a bravo, and to have that name, although 
he cannot be convicted of having committed any crime . . . 
for this reputation of being a bravo alone, without any 
other proof, may, by the said judges, and by every individual 
of them-, be put to the rack and torture, for process of 
information . . . and although he confess no crime what- 
ever, notwithstanding , he shall be sent to the galleys for 
the said three years, for the sole reputation and name of 
bravo, as aforesaid. All this and more which is omitted, 
because His Excellency is resolved to be obeyed by every one. 
At hearing such brave and confident words of so great a 
Signor, accompanied too with many penalties, one feels much 
inclined to suppose that, at the echo of their rumblings, all 
the bravoes had disappeared for ever. But the testimony 
of a Signor not less authoritative, nor less endowed with 
names, obliges us to believe quite the contrary. The most 
Illustrious and most Excellent Signor Juan Fernandez de 
Velasco, Constable of Castile, Grand Chamberlain of his 
Majesty, Duke of the city of Frias, Count of Haro and 
Castelnovo, Lord of the House of Velasco, and that of the 
Seven Infantas of Lara, Governor of the State of Milan, 
&c., on the 5th of June, 1593, he also, fully informed of 
how much loss and destruction . . . bravoes and vaga- 
bonds are the cause, and of the mischief such sort of people 
effects against the public weal, in despite of justice, warns 
them anew, that within the term of six days, they are to 
evacuate the country, repeating almost word for word, the 
threats and penalties of his predecessor. On the 23rd of 



12 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

May, in a subsequent year, 1598, being informed, with no 
little displeasure of mind, that . . . every day, in this 
city and state, the number of these people (bravoes and 
vagabonds) is on the increase, and day and night nothing 
is heard of them but murder, homicide, robbery, and crimes 
of every kind, for which there is greater facility, because 
these bravoes are confident of being supported by their 
great employers ... he prescrib'es anew the same rem- 
edies, increasing the dose, as men do in obstinate maladies. 
Let every one, then, he concludes, be wholly on his guard 
against contravening in the least the present proclamation; 
for, instead of experiencing the clemency of His Excellency, 
he will experience the rigour of his anger . . . he being 
resolved and determined that this shall be the last and per- 
emptory admonition. 

Not, however, of this opinion was the most Illustrious 
and most Excellent Signer, II Signor Don Pietro Enriquez 
de Acevedo, Count of Fuentes, Captain and Governor of the 
State of Milan; not of this opinion was he, and for good 
reasons. Being fully informed of the misery in which this 
city and state lies by reason of the great number of bravoes 
which abound in it . . . and being resolved wholly to ex- 
tirpate a plant so pernicious, he issues, on the 5th of Decem- 
ber, 1600, a new admonition, full of severe penalties, with 
a firm purpose, that, zvifh all rigour, and without any hope of 
remission, they shall be fully carried out. 

We must believe, however, that he did not apply him- 
self to this matter with that hearty good will which he 
knew how to employ in contriving cabals and exciting ene- 
mies against his great enemy, Henry IV. History informs 
us that he succeeded in arming against that king the Duke 
of Savoy, and caused him to lose a city. He succeeded also 
in engaging the Duke of Biron on his behalf, and caused 
him to lose his head; but as to this pernicious plant of 
bravoes, certain it is that it continued to blossom till the 
22nd of September, 1612. On that day the most Illustrious 
Signor Don Giovanni de Mendosa, Marquis of Hynojosa, 
Gentleman, &c.. Governor, &c., had serious thoughts of 
extirpating it. To this end he sent the usual proclamation, 
corrected and enlarged, to Pandolfo and Marco TuUio Mol- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 13 

atesti, associated printers to His Majesty, with orders to 
print it to the destruction of the bravoes. Yet they lived 
to receive on the 24th of December, 1618, similar and more 
vigorous blows from the most Illustrious and most Excellent 
Signer, the Signor Don Gomez Suarez di Figueroa, Duke of 
Feria, &c., Governor, &c. Moreover, they not being hereby 
done to death, the most Illustrious and most Excellent Signor, 
the Signor Gonzala Fernandez di Cordova, (under whose 
government these events happened to Don Abbondio,) had 
found himself obliged to recorrect and republish the usual 
proclamation against the bravoes, on the 5th day of October, 
1627; i. e. one year one month and two days before this 
memorable event. 

Nor was this the last publication. We do not feel bound, 
however, to make mention of those which ensued, as they 
are beyond the period of our story. We will notice only 
one of the I3tli of February, 1632, in which the most 
Illustrious and most Excellent Signor the Duke of Feria, 
a second time governor, signifies to us that the greatest out- 
rages are caused by those denominated bravoes. 

This suffices to make it pretty certain, that at the time 
of which we treat, there was as yet no lack of bravoes. 

That the two described above were on the lookout for some 
one, was but too evident; but what more alarmed Don Ab- 
bondio was, tiiat he was assured by certain signs that he was 
the person expected; for, the moment he appeared, they 
exchanged glances, raising their heads with a movement 
which plainly expressed that both at once had exclaimed, 
* Here's our man ! ' He who bestrode the wall got up, and 
brought his other leg into the path: his companion left 
leaning on the wall, and both began to walk towards him. 
Don Abbondio, keeping the breviary open before him, as if 
reading, directed his glance forward to watch their move- 
ments. He sa.w them advancing straight towards him: 
multitudes of thoughts, all at once, crowded upon him ; with 
quick anxiety he asked himself, whett^r any pathway to the 
right or left lay between him and the bravoes; and quickly 
came the answer, — no. He made a hasty examination, to dis- 
cover whether he had offended some great man, some vindic- 
tive neighbour ; but even in this moment of alarm, the consol- 



14 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ing testimony of conscience somewhat reassured him. Mean- 
while the bravoes drew near, eyeing him fixedly. He put 
the fore finger and middle finger of his left hand up to his 
collar, as if to settle it^ and running the two fingers round 
his neck he turned his head backwards at tke same time, 
twisting his mouth in the same direction, and looked out of 
the corner of his eyes as far as he could, to see whether any 
one was coming; but he saw no one. He cast a glance 
over the low wall into the fields — no one ; another, more sub- 
dued, along the path forward — no one but the bravoes. What 
is to be done? turn back? It is to late. Run? It was the 
samic as to say, follow me, or worse. Since he could not 
escape the danger, he went to m.eet it. These moments 
of imcertainty were already so painful, he desired only to 
shorten them. He quickened his pace, recited a verse in a 
louder tone, com.posed his face to a tranquil and careless 
expression, as well as he could, used every effort to have a 
smile ready; and when he found himself in the presence 
of the two good men, exclaiming mentally, ' here we are ! ' 
he stood still. * Signor Curato ! ' said one, staring in his 
face. 

^ Who commands me ? ' quickly answered Don Abbondio, 
raising his eyes from the book, and holding it open in 
both hands. 

*You intend,' continued the other, with the threatening 
angry brow of one who has caught an inferior committing 
some grievous fault, ^ you intend, to-morrow, to marry Renzo 
Tramaglino and Lucia Mondella ! ' 

*That is . . o' replied Don Abbondio, with a quiver- 
ing voice,— * That is . . . You, gentlemen, are men of 
the world, and know well how these things go. A poor 
curate has nothing to do v/ith them. They patch up their 
little treaties between themselves, and then , . . then, they 
come to us, as one goes to the bank to make a demand; 
and we , . , we are servants of the community.' 

' Mark well,' said the bravo, in a lower voice but with 
a solemn tone of command, ' this marriage is not to be per- 
formed, not to-morrow, nor ever.' 

'But, gentlemen,' replied Don Abbondio, with the sooth- 
ing, mild tone of one who would persuade an impatienir 



I PKOMESSI SPOSI 15 

man, *be so kind as put yourselves in my place. If the thing 
depended on me , . . you see plainly that it is no ad- 
vantage to me . , / 

* Come, come/ interrupted the bravo ; ^ if the thing were 
to be decided by prating, you might soon put our heads in a 
poke. We knovv^ nothing about it, and we don't want to 
know more. A warned man . . , you understand.' 

' But gentlemen like you are too just, too reasonable . . .' 
' But,' (this time the other companion broke in, who had 
not hitherto spoken) — 'but the marriage is not to be per- 
formed, or . , J here a great oath — 'or he who per- 
forms it will never repent, because he shall ha? > no 
time for it . , ,' another oath. 

* Silence, silence/ replied the first orator : * the Signor 
Curato knows the way of the world, and we are good sort 
of men, v/ho don't wish to do him any harm, if he will act 
like a wise m.an. Signor Curato, the Illustrious Signor Don 
Rodrigo, our master, sends his kind respects/ 

To the mind of Don Abbondio this nam.e was like the 
lightning flash in a storm at night, which, illuminating for 
a moment and confusing all objects, increases the terror. 
As by instinct he made a low bow, and said, * If you could 
suggest , . ,' 

* Oh ! suggest is for you who know Latin,' again inter- 
rupted the bravo, with a smile between awkwardness and 
ferocity ; * it is all very well for you. But, above all, let 
not a word be whispered about this notice that we have 
given you for your good, or . . . Ehem ! ... it v/ill be 
the same as marrying them. — Well, what v/ill your Rever- 
ence that we say for you to the Illustrious Signor Don 
Rodrigo ? ' 

* My respects/ 

* Be clear, Signor Curato.' 

* . . . Disposed . . . always disposed to obedience/ 
And having said these words, he did not himself well know 
v/hether he had given a promise, or whether he had 
only sent an ordinary compliment. The bravoes took it^ 
and showed that they took it, in the more serious meaning. 

^ Very well — good evening, Signor Curato/ said one of 
them, leading his companion away. 



16 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio, who a few moments before would have 
given one of his eyes to have got rid of them, now wished 
to prolong the conversation and modify the treaty; — in vain 
they would not listen, but took the path along which ht had 
come, and were soon out of sight, singing a ballad, which I 
do not choose to transcribe. Poor Don Abbondio stood for 
a moment with his mouth open, as if enchanted: and then 
he too departed, taking that path which led to his house, and 
hardly dragging one leg after the other, with a sensation of 
walking on crab-claws, and in a frame of mind which the 
reader will better understand, after having learnt somewhat 
more of the character of this personage, and of the sort of 
times in which his lot was cast. 

Don Abbondio — tne reader may have discovered it already 
— was not born with the heart of a lion. Besides this, from 
his earliest years, he had had occasion to learn, that the most 
embarrassing of all conditions in those times, was that of 
an animal, without claws, and without teeth, which yet, 
nevertheless, had no inclination to be devoured. 

The arm of the law by no means protected the quiet 
inoffensive man, who had no other means of inspiring fear. 
Not, indeed, that there was any want of laws and penalties 
against private violence. Laws came down like hail ; crimes 
were recounted and particularized with minute prolixity; 
penalties were absurdly exorbitant; and if that were not 
enough, capable of augmentation in almost every case, at 
the will of the legislator himself and of a hundred execu- 
tives; the forms of procedure studied only how to liberate 
the judge from every impediment in the way of passing a 
sentence of condemnation; the sketches v/e have given of 
the proclamations against the bravoes are a feeble but true 
index of this. Notwithstanding, or rather in great measure 
for this reason, these proclamations, republished and re- 
enforced by one government after another, served only to 
attest most magniloquently the impotence of their authors; 
or if they produced any immediate effect, it was for the 
most part to add new vexations to those already suffered by 
the peaceable and helpless at the hands of the turbulent, and 
to increase the violence and cunning of the latter. Impunity 
was organized and implanted so deeply that its roots were 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 17 

untouched, or at least unmoved, by these proclamations. 
Such were the asylums, such were the privileges of certain 
classes, privileges partly recognized by law, partly borne 
with envious silence, or decried with vain protests, but kept 
up in fact, and guarded by these classes, and by almost 
every individual in them, with interested activity and punc- 
tilious jealousy. Now, im.punity of this kind, threatened and 
insulted, but not destroyed by the proclamations, was natu- 
rally obliged, on every new threat and insult, to put in force 
new powers and new schemes to preserve its own exittence. 
So it fell out in fact; and on the appearance of a proclama- 
tion for the restraint of the violent, these sought in their 
power new means more apt in effecting that which the 
proclamations forbade. The proclam.ations, indeed, could 
accomplish at every step the miolestation of good sort of 
men, who had neither power themselves nor protection from 
others; because, in order to have every person under their 
hands, to prevent or punish every crime, they subjected every 
miovement of private life to the arbitrary will of a thousand 
m.agistrates and executives. But whoever, before commit- 
ting a crime, had taken measures to secure his escape in 
time to a convent or a palace, where the birri^ had never 
dared to enter; whoever (without any other m.easures) bore 
a livery v/hich called to his defence the vanity and interest 
of a powerful family or order, such an one was free to do 
as he pleased, and could set at nought the clam.our of the 
proclamations. Of those very persons to whom the enforc- 
ing of them was committed, som.e belonged by birth to the 
privileged class, some were dependent on it, as clients; both 
one and the other by education, interest, habit, and imitation, 
had embraced its m.axims, and would have taken good care 
not to offend it for the sake of a piece of paper pasted on 
the corners of the streets. The men entrusted with the im- 
mediate execution of the decrees, had they been enterprising 
as' heroes, obedient as monks, and devoted as martyrs, could 
not have had the upper hand, inferior as they were in num- 
ber to those with whom they would have been engaged in 
battle, with the probability of being frequently abandoned, 
or even sacrificed, by those who abstractedly, or (so to say) 
^i. e.i the armed police. 



18 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in theory, set them to work. But besides this, these men/ 
were, generally, chosen from the lowest and most rascally 
classes of those times: their office was held base even hj 
those who stood most in fear of it, and their title a reproach. 
It was therefore but natural that they, instead of risking, 
or rather throwing away, their lives in an impracticable un- 
dertaking, should take pay for inaction, or even connivance 
at the powerful, and reserve the exercise of their execrated 
authority and diminished power for those occasions, where 
they could oppress, without danger, i. e. hy annoying pacific 
and defenceless persons. 

The man who is ready to give and expecting to receive 
offence every moment, naturally seeks allies and companions. 
Hence the tendency of individuals to unite into classes was 
in these times carried to the greatest excess; new societies 
were formed, and each man strove to increase the pov/er of 
his own party to the greatest degree. The clergy were 
on the watch to defend and extend their immunities; the 
nobility their privileges, the military their exemptions. 
Tradespeople and artisans were enrolled in subordinate con- 
fraternities, lawyers constituted a league, and even doctors a 
corporation. Each of these little oligarchies had its own pecu- 
liar power; in each the individual found it an advantage to 
avail himself, in proportion to their authority and vigour, 
of the united force of the many. Honest men availed them- 
selves of this advantage for defence; the evil-disposed and 
sharp-witted made use of it to accomplish deeds of violence, 
for which their personal means were insufficient, and to 
ensure themselves impunity. The power, however, of these 
various combinations was very unequal; and especially in 
the country, a rich and violent nobility, having a band of 
bravoes, and surrounded by a peasantry accustomed by im- 
memorial tradition, and compelled by interest or force, to 
look upon themselves as soldiers of their lords, exercised a 
power against which no other league could have maintained 
effectual resistance. 

Our Abbondio, not noble, not rich, not courageous, was 
therefore accustomed from his very infancy to look upon 
himself as a vessel of fragile earthenware, obhged to jour- 
ney in company with many vessels of iron. Hence he had 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 19 

very easity acquiesced in his parents' wish to make him a 
priest. To say the truth, he had not reflected much on the 
obligations and noble ends of the ministry to which he was 
dedicating himself: to ensure something to live upon with 
comfort, and to place himself in a class revered and power- 
ful, seemed to him two sufficient reasons for his choice. But 
no class whatever provides for an individual, or secures him, 
beyond a certain point: and none dispenses him from form- 
ing his own particular system. 

Don Abbondio, continually absorbed in thoughts about his 
ovv^n security, cared not at all for those advantages which 
risked a little to secure a great deal. His system was to 
escape all opposition, and to yield where he could not 
escape. In all the frequent contests carried on around 
him between the clergy and laity, in the perpetual collision 
between officials and the nobility, between the nobility and 
magistrates, between bravoes and soldiers, down to the 
pitched battle between two rustics, arising from a word, and 
decided with fists or poniards, an unarmed neutrality was 
his chosen position. If he were absolutely obliged to take 
a part, he favoured the stronger, always, however, with a 
reserve, and an endeavour to show the other that he was 
not willingly his enemy. It seemed as if he would say, ' Why 
did you not manage to be the stronger ? I would have taken 
your side then.' Keeping a respectful distance from the 
powerful; silently bearing their scorn, when capriciously 
shown in passing instances; answering with submission when 
it assumed a more serious and decided form; obliging, by 
his profound bows and respectful salutations, the m.ost surly 
and haughty to return him a smile, when he met them by 
the way; the poor man had performed the voyage of sixty 
years without experiencing any very violent tempests. 

It was not that he had not too his own little portion of 
gall in his disposition: and this continual exercise of endur- 
ance, this ceaseless giving reasons to others, these many 
bitter mouthfuls gulped down in silence, had so far exas- 
perated it, that had he not had an opportunity somxetimes 
of giving it a little of its own way, his health would certainly 
have suffered. But since there were in the world, close 
around him, some few persons yvhom he knew well to be 



20 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

incapable of hurting, upon them he was able now and thtn 
to let out the bad humour so long pent up, and take upon 
himself (even he) the right to be a little fantastic, and to 
scold unreasonably. Besides, he was a rigid censor of those 
who did not guide themselves by his rules ; that is, when the 
censure could be passed without any, the most distant, dan- 
ger. Was any one beaten ? he was at least imprudent ; — any 
one murdered? he had always been a turbulent meddler. If 
any one, having tried to maintain his right against some 
powerful noble, came off with a broken head, Don Abbondio 
always knew how to discover some fault; a thing not diffi- 
cult, since right and wrong never are divided with so clean 
a cut, that one party has the whole of either. Above all, he 
declaimed against any of his brethren, who, at their own 
risk, took the part of the weak and oppressed against the 
powerful oppressor. This he called paying for quarrels, and 
giving one's legs to the dogs: he even pronounced with 
severity upon it, as a mixing in profane things, to the loss 
of dignity to the sacred ministry. Against such men he dis- 
coursed (always, however, with his eyes about him, or in a 
retired corner) with greater vehemence in proportion as he 
knew them to be strangers to anxiety about their personal 
safety. He had, finally, a favourite sentence, with which 
he always wound up discourses on these matters, that a 
respectable man who looked to himself, and minded his own 
business, could always keep clear of mischievous quarrels. 

My five-and-twenty readers may imagine what impression 
such an encounter as has been related above would make on 
the m-ind of this pitiable being. The fearful aspect of those 
faces; the great words; the threats of a Signor known for 
never threatening in vain; a system of living in quiet, the 
t)atient study of so many years, upset in a moment; and, in 
prospect, a path narrow and rugged, from which no exit 
could be seen, — all these thoughts buzzed about tumultuously 
in the downcast head of Don Abbondio. *If Renzo could 
be dismissed in peace with a mere no, it is all plain ; but he 
would want reasons; and what am I to say to him? and— 
and — and he is a lamb, quiet as a lamb if no one touches him, 
but if he were contradicted . . . whew ! and then — out of his 
senses about this Lucia, in love over head and . . . These 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 21 

young men, v/hxO fall in love for want of something to do^ will 
be married, and think nothing about other people, they do not 
care anything for the trouble they bring upon a poor curate. 
Unfortunate m^e ! What possible business had these two fright- 
ful figures to put themselves in my path, and interfere with 
mef Is it I who want to be married? Why did they not 
rather go and talk with .... Let me see: what a great 
misfortune it is that the right plan never comes into m.y 
head till it is too late ! If I had but thought of suggesting 
to them to carry their m.essage to . . .' But at this point 
it occurred to him that to repent of not having been aider 
and abettor in iniquity, was itself iniquitous; and he turned 
his angry thoughts upon the man who had come, in this 
manner, to rob him of his peace. He knew Don Rodrigo 
only by sight and by report; nor had he had to do with him 
further than to make a lowly reverence v/hen he had chanced 
to meet him. It had fallen to him several tim.es to defend 
this Signor against those who, with subdued voice and looks 
of fear, wished ill to some of his enterprises. He had said 
a hundred times that he was a respectable cavalier; but at 
this moment he bestowed upon him all those epithets which 
he had never heard applied by others without an exclamation 
of disapprobation. Amid the tumult of these thoughts he 
reached his own door — hastily applied the key which he held 
in his hand, opened, entered, carefully closed it behind him, 
and anxious to find himself in trust-worthy company, called 
quickly, * Perpetua, Perpetua ! ' as he went towards the 
dining-room, where he was sure to find Perpetua laying the 
cloth for supper. 

Perpetua, as every one already knows, was Don Abbondio's 
servant, a servant affectionate and faithful, who knew 
how to obey and com.mand in turn as occasion required 
— to bear, in season, the grumblings and fancies of her 
m.aster, and to make him bear the like when her turn came ; 
which day by day recurred more frequently, since she had 
passed the sinodal age of forty, remaining single, because, as 
she said herself, she had refused all offers, or because she 
had never found any one goose enough to have her, as her 
friends said. 

' I am coming,' re|)lied Perpetua, gutting down in its usual 



22 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

place a little flask of Don Abbondio's favourite wine, and 
moving leisurely. But before she reached the door of the 
dining-room, he entered, with a step so unsteady, with an 
expression so overcast, with features so disturbed, that there 
had been no need of Perpetua's experienced eye to discover 
at a glance that something very extraordinary had hap- 
pened, 

* Mercy ! what has happened to you, master ? ' 

* Nothing, nothing,' replied Don Abbondio, sinking down 
breathless on his arm-chair. 

* How nothing ! Would you make me believe this, so dis- 
ordered as you are? Some great misfortune has happened.' 

* Oh, for Heaven's sake ! When I say nothing, either it 
is nothing, or it is something I cannot tell.' 

* Not tell, even to me? Who will take care of your safety, 
sir ? who will advise you ? ' 

* Oh, dear ! hold your tongue, and say no more ; give me 
a glass of my wine.' 

* And you will persist, sir, that it is nothing ! ' said Per- 
petua, filling the glass; and then holding it in her hand, as 
if she would give it in payment for the confidence he kept 
her waiting for so long. 

* Give it here, give it here,' said Don Abbondio, taking the 
glass from her with no very steady hand, and emptying it 
hastily, as if it were a drau:ght of medicine. 

* Do you wish me, then, sir, to be obliged to ask here and 
there, what has happened to m.y master ? ' said Perpetua, 
right opposite him, with her arms akimbo, looking steadily 
at him, as if she would gather the truth from his eyes. 

* For Heaven's sake ! let us have no brawling — let us have 
no noise : it is . . . it is my life ! ^ 

* Your life ! ' 

' My life.' * 

' You know, sir, that whenever you have told me any thing 
sincerely in confidence, I have never . . .' 

* Well done! for instance, when. . .' 

Perpetua saw she had touched a wrong chord; wherefore, 
suddenly changing her tone, ' Signor, master,' she said, with 
a softened and affecting voice, * I have always been an affec- 
tionate servant to you, sir; and if I v/ish to know this, it is 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 23 

because of my care for 3^011, because I wish to be able to 
help you, to give you good advice, and to comfort you.' 

The fact was, Don Abbondio was, perhaps, just as anxious 
to get rid of his burdensome secret, as Perpetua was to know 
it In consequence, after having rebutted, always more 
feebly, her reiterated and more vigorous assaults, after 
having made her vow more than once not to breathe the 
subject, with many sighs and m^any doleful exclamations, he 
related at last the miserable event. When he came to the 
terrible name, it was necessary for Perpetua to make new 
and more solemn vows of silence; and Don Abbondio, hav- 
ing pronounced this name, sank back on the chair, lifting up 
his hands in act at once of command and entreaty — exclaim- 
ing, ' For heaven's sake ! ' 

' Mercy ! ' exclaimed Perpetua, ' Oh, what a wretch ! Oh, 
what a tyrant ! Oh, what a godless man ! ' 

' Will you hold your tongue ? or do you wish to ruin me 
altogether ? ' 

' V/hy, we're ail alone : no one can hear us. But what 
will you do, sir ? Oh, my poor master ! ' 

* You see now, you see,' said Don Abbondio, in an angry^ 
tone, * what good advice this woman can give me ! She 
comes and asks me what shall I do, v/hat shall I do, as if 
she were in a quandary, and it were my place to help her out.' 

* But I could even give my poor opinion ; but then . . .' 
^ But then, let us hear.' 

* My advice would be, since, as everybody says, our Arch- 
bishop is a saint, a bold-hearted man, and one Vv^ho is not 
afraid of an ugly face, and one who glories in upholding a 
poor curate against these tyrants, when he has an oppor- 
tunity, — I should say, and I do say, that you should write a 
nice letter to inform him how that. . / 

* Will you hold your tongue ? will you be silent ? Is this 
fit advice to give a poor man? When a bullet was lodged 
in my back, (Heaven defend me!) would the Archbishop 
dislodee it?' 

o 

* Why ! bullets don't fly in showers like comfits.^ Woe to 
us if these dogs could bite whenever they bark. And I have 

^ It is a custom in Italy, during the carnival, for friends to salute each 
other with showers of comfits, as they pass ia the streets. 



24 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

always taken notice that whoever knows hov/ to show his 
teeth, and makes use of them, is treated with respect; and 
just because master will never give his reasons, we are come 
to that pass, that every one comes to us, if I may say 
it to . . / 

* Will you hold your tongue ? * 

' I will directly ; but it is, however, certain, that when all 
the world sees a man always, in every encounter, ready to 
yield the , . .' 

' Will you hold your tongue ? Is this a time for such non- 
sensical words ? ' 

' Very well : you can think about it to-night ; but now, don't 
be doing any mischief to yourself; don't be making yourself 
ill — take a mouthful to eat/ 

'Think about it, shall I?' grumbled Don Abbondio, *to 
be sure I shall think about it. I've got it to think about;' 
and he got up, going on ; ' I will take nothing, nothing : I 
have something else to do. I know, too, what I ought to 
think about it. But, that this should have come on my 
head ! ' 

* Swallow at least this other little drop,' said Perpetua, 
pouring it out ; ' you know, sir, this always strengthens your 
stomach.' 

*Ah, v/e want another strengthener — another — another — ^ 
So saying, he took the candle, and constantly grumbling, 
'A nice little business to a man like me ! and to-morrow, what 
is to be done ? ' with other like lamentations, went to his 
chamber, to lie down. When he had reached the door, he 
paused a moment, turned round and laid his finger on his 
lips, pronouncing slowly and solemnly, * For Heaven's sake I ' 
and disappeared. 



CHAPTER II 

IT is related that the Prince Conde slept soundly the 
night before the battle of Rocroi. But, in the first 
place, he was very tired, and, secondly, he had given 
all needful previous orders, and arranged what was to be 
done on the morrow. Don Abbondio, on the other hand, 
as yet knew nothing, except that the morrow would be a 
day of battle: hence great part of the night was spent by 
him in anxious and harassing deliberations. To take no notice 
of the lawless intimation, and proceed with the marriage, 
was a plan on which he would not even expend a thought. 
To confide the occurrence to Renzo, and seek with him some 
means ... he dreaded the thought ! * he must not let a 
word escape . . . otherwise . . . ehm!': thus one of the 
bravoes had spoken, and at the re-echoing of this ehmf 
Don Abbondio, far from thinking of transgressing such a 
law, began to repent of having revealed it to Perpetua. Must 
he fly ! Whither ? And then, how many annoyances, how 
many reasons to give! As he rejected plan after plan, the 
unfortunate man tossed from side to side in bed. The course 
which seemed best to him was to gain time, by imposing on 
Renzo. He opportunely remembered that it wanted only 
a few days of the time when weddings were prohibited.^ — 
'And if I can only put him off for these few days, I have 
then two months before me, and in two months great things 
may be done.' — He ruminated over various pretexts to 
bring into play: and though they appeared to him rather 
slight, yet he reassured himself with the thought that his 
authority added to them would make them appear of suf- 
ficient weight, and then his practised experience would 
give him great advantage over an ignorant youth. * Let 
us see,' he said to himself, * he thinks of his love, but I 
of my life; I am more interested than he: beside that I 
am cleverer. My dear child, if you feel your back smart- 
ingj I know not what to say; but I will not put my foot in 

ij. e. Lent 

25 



26 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

it.' — His mind being thus a little settled to deliberation, 
he was able at last to close his eyes ; but what sleep ! What 
dreams ! Bravoes, Don Rodrigo, Renzo, pathways, rocks, 
flight, chase, cries, muskets ! 

The moment of first awaking after a misfortune, while 
still in perplexity, is a bitter one. The mind scarcely re- 
stored to consciousness, returns to the habitual idea of 
former tranquillity: but the thought of the new state of 
things soon presents itself with rude abruptness; and 
our misfortune is most trying in this moment of contrast. 
Dolefully Don Abbondio tasted the bitterness of this mo- 
ment, and then began hastily to recapitulate the designs 
of the night, confirmed himself in them, arranged them 
anew, arose, and waited for Renzo at once with fear and 
impatience. 

Lorenzo, or, as every one called him, Renzo, did not 
keep him long waiting. Scarcely had the hour arrived 
at which he thought he could with propriety present him- 
self to the Curate, when he set off with the light step 
of a man of tv/enty, who was on that day to espouse her 
whom he loved. He had in early youth been deprived 
of his parents, and carried on the trade of silk-weaver, 
hereditary, so to say, in his family ; a trade lucrative enough 
in former years, but even then beginning to decline, yet 
not to such a degree, that a clever workman was not able 
to make an honest livelihood by it. Work became more 
scarce from day to day, but the continual emigration of 
the workmen, attracted to the neighbouring states by prom- 
ises, privileges, and large wages, left sufficient occupation 
for those who remained in the country. Renzo possessed, 
besides, a plot of land, which he cultivated, working in it 
himself when he was disengaged from his silk-weaving, so 
that in his station he might be called a rich man. Although 
this year was one of greater scarcity than those which had 
preceded it, and real want began to be felt already, yet he,' 
having become a saver of money ever since he had cast 
his eyes upon Lucia, found himself sufficiently furnished with 
provisions, and had no need to beg his bread. He appeared 
before Don Abbondio in gay bridal costume^ with feathers 
of various colours in his cap, with an ornamental-hilted 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 27 

dagger in his pocket; and with an air of festivit}^ and at 
the same time of defiance, common at that time even to 
men the most quiet. The hesitating and mysterious reception 
of Don Abbondio formed a strange contrast with the joy- 
ous and resohite bearing of the young man. 

He must have got some notion in his head, thought 
Renzo to himself, and then said: *I have come, Signor 
Curate, to know at what hour it will suit you for us to be 
at church.' 

'What day are you speaking of?' 

*How! of what day? Don't you remember, sir, that this 
is the day fixed upon ? ' 

* To-day?" replied Don Abbondio, as if he now heard 
it spoken of for the first tim.e, ' To-day, to-day « . . 
don't be impatient, but to-day I cannot/ 

* To-day you cannot ! What has happened, sir ? ' 

* First of all, I do not feel well, you see/ 

*I am very sorry, but what you have to do, sir, is so 
soon done, and so little fatiguing ,■ . .o^ 
*And then, and then, and then , .: >f 
*And then what, Signor Curate?^ 

* And then, there are difficultieSo' 

* Difficulties ! What difficulties can there be ? ^ 

'You need to stand in our shoes, to understand v^hat 
perplexities we have in these matters, what reasons to 
give. I am too soft-hearted, I think of nothing but how 
to remove obstacles, and make all easy, and arrange things 
to please others; I neglect my duty, and then I am sub- 
ject to reproofs, and worse/ 

' But in Heaven's name, don't keep me so on the stretch 
— tell me at once what is the matter ? ' 

* Do you know how many, many formalities are neces- 
sary to perform a marriage regularly ? ' 

* I ought to know a little about it,' said Renzo, beginning 
to be warm, * for you, sir, have puzzled m.y head enough 
about it, the last few days back. But nov/ is not everything 
made clear ? Is not everything done that had to be done ?' 

*A11, all, on your part: therefore, have patience; an 
ass I am to neglect my duty that I may not give pain to 
people. We poor curates are between the anvil and the 



28 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

hammer; you are impatient; I am sorry for yotl, poor 
voung man; and the great people <, . . enough, one must 
Hot say everything. And we have to go between/ 

*But explain to me at once, sir, what this new for- 
mahty is, which has to be gone through, as you say; and 
it shall be done soon.' 

' Do you know what the number of absolute impedi- 
ments is ? ^ 

* What would you have me know about impediments, sir ? ' 
' Err or J conditio, votum, cognatio, crimen, cultus dispari- 

tas, vis, or do . , . Si sit aiUnis . . .' 

"Are you making game of me, sir? What do you expect 
me to know about your latinorum ? ' 

* Then, if you don't understand things, have patience, 
and leave them to those who do.' 

'Or su! . . .' 

* Quiet, my dear Renzo, don't get in a passion, for I 
am ready to do . . . all that depends on me. I, I wish 
to see you satisfied; I wish you well. Alas! . . . when 
I think how well off you were; what were you wanting? 
The whim of getting married came upon you . . .' 

* What talk is this, Signor mio,' interrupted Renzo, with 
a voice between astonishment and anger. 

*Have patience, I tell you. I wish to see you satisfied.' 
*In short . . ? 

* In short, my son, it is no fault of mine. I did not 
make the law; and before concluding a marriage, it is our 
special duty to certify ourselves that there is no impedi- 
ment.' 

'But come, tell me once for all what impediment has come 
in the way ? ' 

* Have patience, they are not things to be deciphered thus 
at a standing. It will be nothing to us, I hope; but, be the 
consequence great or little, we must make these researches. 
The text is clear and evident; antequam matrimonium de^ 
nuncief . . .' 

*I have told you, sir, I will have no Latin.' 

* But it is necessary that I should explain to you , , o* 

* But have you not made all these researches ? ' 

* I tell you^ I have not made them all, as I must.' 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 29 

'Why did you not do it in time, sir? Why did you 

tell me that all was finished? Why wait . . .' 

* Look now ! you are finding fault with my over-kind- 
ness. I have facilitated everything to serve you without 
loss of time: but , . . but now I have received . . ., 
enough, I know.' 

* And what do you wish me to do, sir ? ' 

'To have patience for a few days. My dear son, a 
few days are not eternity: have patience.' 

' For how long ? ' , 

— We are in good train now, thought Don Abbondio to 
himself: and added with a more polite manner than ever: 
'Come now, in fifteen days I will endeavour to do . . .' 

' Fifteen days ! This indeed is something new ! You 
have had everything your own way, sir; you fixed the 
day; the day arrives; and now you go tell me I must wait 
fifteen days. Fifteen . . .'he began again, with a louder 
and more angry voice, extending his arm and striking the 
air with his fist; and nobody knows what shocking words 
he would have added to this number fifteen, if Don Ab- 
bondio had not interrupted him, taking his other hand with a 
timid and anxious friendliness : * Come, come, don't be 
angry, for Heaven's sake. I will see, I will try whether 
in one week . . .' 

* And Lucia, what must I say to her ? ' 
'That it has been an oversight of mine/ 

* And what will the world say ? ' 

* Tell them too, that I have made a blunder through over- 
haste, through too much good nature: lay all the fault 
on me. Can I say more? Come now, for one week.' 

* And then will there be no more impediments ? ' 
*When I tell you . . .' 

* Very well : I will be quiet for a week ; but I know well 
enough that when it is passed, I shall get nothing but 
talk. But before that I shall see you again.' Having so 
said he retired, making a bow much less lowly than usual, 
to Don Abbondio, and bestowing on him a glance more ex- 
pressive than reverent. 

Having reached the road, and walking with a heavy 
heart towards the home of his betrothed^ in the midst of his 



30 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

wrath, he turned his thoughts on the late conversation, and 
more and more strange it seemed to him. The cold and 
constrained greeting of Don Abbondio; his guarded and yet 
impatient words, his grey eyes, which, as he spoke, glanced 
inquisitively here and there, as if afraid of coming in con- 
tact with the words which issued from his mouth, the making 
a new thing, as it were, of the nuptials so expressly deter- 
mined, and above all, the constant hinting at some great oc- 
currence, without ever saying anything decided, — all these 
things put together made Renzo think that there was some 
overhanging mystery, different from that which Don Ab- 
bondio would have had him suppose. The youth was just 
on the point of turning back, to oblige him to speak more 
plainly; but raising his eyes, he saw Perpetua a little way 
before him, entering a garden^ a few paces distant from the 
house. He gave her a call to open the garden door for him, 
quickened his pace, came up with her, detained her in the 
door-way, and stood still to have a conversation with her, 
intending to discover something more positive. 

* Good morning, Perpetua : I hoped we should have been 
merry to-day altogether.' 

'But! as Heaven wills, my poor Renzo . . .' 

* I want you to do me a kindness. The Signor Curate has 
been making a long story of certain reasons, which I can- 
not understand; will you explain to me better why he cannot 
or will not marry us to-day ? ' 

* Oh ! is it likely I know my master's secrets ? ' 

—I said there was some hidden mystery, thought Renzo; 
and to draw it forth to the light, he continued : * Come, 
Perpetua, we are friends; tell me what you know, help an 
unfortunate youth.' 

' It is a bad thing to be born poor, my dear Renzo.* 
*That is true/ replied he, still confirming himself in 
his suspicions, and seeking to come nearer the question, 
*that is true; but is it for a priest to deal hardly with 
the poor?' 

* Listen, Renzo, I can tell you nothing; because . . . 
I know nothing; but what you m.ay assure yourself of, is, 

STo understand this scene fully, the reader must bear in mind that , the 
Italian gardens are, almost invariably, surrounded by a wall seven or eight 
ieet iiigh. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 31 

that my master does not wish to ill-treat you, or anybody; 
and it is not his fault.' 

* Whose fault is it then ? ' demanded Renzo, with an air 
of indifference, but with an anxious heart, and ears on the 
alert. 

* When I tell you I know nothing ... In defence of my 
master I can speak; because I can't bear to hear that he 
is read}^ to do ill to any one. Poor man ! if he does wrong, 
it is from too good nature. There certainly are some 
wretches in the world, overbearing tyrants, men without 
the fear of God . . .' 

— Tyrants ! wTetches ! thought Renzo : are not these the 
great men ? ' Come,' said he, with difficulty hiding his in- 
creasing agitation, ' come, tell me who it is.' 

* Oh, oh ! you want to make me speak ; and I cannot 
speak, because ... I know nothing: when I know noth- 
ing, it is the same as if I had taken an oath not to tell. 
You might put me to the rack, and you would get nothing 
from my mouth. Good-bye; it is lost time for you and 
me botho' 

So saying, she quickly entered the garden, and shut the 
door. Renzo, having returned her farewell, turned back, 
with a quiet step, that she might not hear which way he 
took; but when he got beyond reach of the good wom.an's 
ears, he quickened his pace; in a mom.ent he was at Don 
Abbondio's door, entered, went straight to the room 
in which he had left him, found him there, and v/ent 
towards him with a reckless bearing, and eyes glancing 
anger, 

* Eh ! eh ! what new thing is this ? ' said Don Abbondio. 

* Who is that tyrant,' said Renzo, with the voice of a m.an 
who is determined to obtain a precise reply, * who is the 
tyrant who is unwilling that I should marry Lucia ? ' 

* What ? what ? what ? ' stammered the astonished poor 
man, his face in a moment becoming pale, and colourless as 
a rag just emerged from the washing-tub: then, still stam- 
mering, he made a start from his arm-chair, to dart towards 
the door. But Renzo, who might have expected this move- 
ment, was on the alert, sprang there before him^ locked 
it, and put the key in his pocket. 



32 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'^ Ah ! ah ! Will you speak nozu. Signer Curato ? Every- 
body knows my affairs, except myself. But, by Bacchus, I 
too will know. What is his nam.e ? ' 

* Renzo I Renzo ! for charity, take care what you are 
about; think of your soul.' 

*I am thinking that I will know it quickly, in a moment/ 
And as he spoke, perhaps without being aware of it, he laid 
his hand on the hilt of the dagger which projected from his 
pocket. 

' Misericordia ! ^ exclaimed Don Abbondio^ in a feeble 
voice. 

* I will know it.' 

* Who has told you ? . . . * 

* No, no ; no more trickery. Speak positively and quickly.* 

* Do you wish me to be killed ? ' 

* I wish to know what I have a right to know.' 

* But if I speak, I'm a dead man ! Surely I'm not to 
trample on my own life?' 

* Then speak.' 

This then was pronounced with such energy, and Renzo's 
face became so threatening, that Don A_bbondio could no 
longer entertain a hope of the p'jtssibility of disobedience. 

* Promise me — swear to me,' said he, * not to speak of 
it to any one^ never to tell . . .' 

'I promise you, sir, that I will do an ill deed, if you 
don't tell me quick — quick, his name ! ' 

At this new adjuration, Don Abbondio, with the face 
and look of a man who has the pincers of the dentist in his 
mouth, articulated, 'Don . . .' 

*Don?' repeated Renzo, as if to help the patient to utter 
the rest; while he stood bending forward, his ear turned 
tov/ards the open mouth of Don Abbondio, his arms stretched 
out, and his clinched fists behind him. 

* Don Rodrigo ! ' hastily uttered the compelled curate, 
making a rush at these few syllables, and gliding over the 
consonants, partly through excitement, partly because ex- 
ercising the little judgment that was left him,, to steer his 
way betwixt the two fears, it appeared that he vv^ished 
to withdraw the word and make it invisible at the very 
moment he was constrained to give utterance to it. 

HO 1— VoL 21 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 33 

*Ah, dog!' shouted Renzo; 'and how has he done it? 
And what has he said to . . . ? ' 

* How, eh ? how ? ' replied Don Abbondio, in an indignant 
voice, as it were; feehng after so great a sacrifice, that he 
had, in a manner, become a creditor. ''How, eh? I wish 
it had happened to you, as it has to me, who have not put 
my foot in it for nothing; for then^ certainly, you would not 
have so many crotchets in your head.' And here he began 
to depict in dreadful colours the terrible encounter. As he 
proceeded in the description, he began to realize the wrath 
which hitherto had been concealed, or changed into fear; 
and perceiving at the same time that Renzo, between anger 
and confusion, stood motionless, with his head downwards, 
he continued triumphantly : ' You have done a pretty deed ! 
Nice treatment you have given me ! To serve such a trick 
to an honest man, to your curate — in his own house — in a 
sacred place ! You have done a fine action, to force from my 
lips my own ruin and yours, that which I concealed from 
you in prudence for your own good ! And now, when you 
do know itj how much wiser are you? I should like to know 
what you would have done to me ! No joking here, no ques- 
tion of right and wrong, but mere force. And this morn- 
ing, when I gave you good advice ... eh ! in a rage 
directly. I had judgment enough for myself, and you too; 
but how does it go now? Open the door, however; give 
me my key.' 

' I may have been wrong,' replied Renzo, with a voice 
softened towards Don Abbondio, but in which suppressed 
rage against his newly discovered enemy might be perceived; 
'I may have been wrong; but put your hand to your heart, 
and think whether in my case . , ,' 

So saying, he took the key from his pocket, and went to 
open the door. Don Abbondio stood behind; and while Renzo 
turned the key in the lock, he came beside him, and with a 
serious and anxious face, holding up three fingers of his 
right hand, as if to help him in his turn, * Swear at least 
, . .' said he. 

* I may have been wrong, and I beg your pardon, 
sir,' answered Renzo, opening the door, and preparing to 
go out. 

HC 2— Vol. 21 



34 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* Swear . . .' replied Don Abbondio, seizing him by the 
arm with a trembling hand. 

* I may have been wrong/ repeated Renzo, as he ex- 
tricated himself from him, and departed with vehement 
haste, thus cutting short a discussion which, like many a 
question of philosophy, or literature, or something else, 
might have been prolonged six centuries, since each party 
did nothing but repeat his own arguments. 

* Perpetua !— Perpetua 1 ' cried Don Abbondio, after hav- 
ing in vain called back the fugitive. Perpetua answered not : 
Don Abbondio then lost all consciousness of where he was. 

It has happened more than once to personages of much 
greater importance than Don Abbondio, to find themselves 
in extremities so trying to the flesh, in such perplexity of 
plans, that it has appeared to them their best resource to go 
to bed with a fever. This resource Don Abbondio had not 
to seek for, because it offered itself to him of its own accord. 
The fright of the day before, the harassing sleeplessness of 
the night, the additional fright in the morning, anxiety about 
the future, had produced this effect. Perplexed and be- 
wildered, he rested himself on his arm-chair: he began to 
feel a certain quaking of the bones; he looked at his nails 
and sighed, and called from time to time, with a tremulous 
and anxious voice — * Perpetua 1 ' Perpetua arrived at length, 
with a great cabbage under her arm, and a business-like 
face, as if nothing had been the matter. I spare the reader 
the lamentations, condolences, "accusations, defences, the- — 
* You only can have spoken,' and the — ' I have not spoken '— 
all the recriminations, in short, of this colloquy. Let it 
suffice to say, that Don Abbondio ordered Perpetua to fasten 
the doors well: not to put foot outside; and if any one 
knocked, to answer from the window, that the curate was 
confined to his bed with a fever. He then slowly ascended 
the stairs, repeating at every third step, * I have caught it ! * 
and really went to bed, where we will leave him. 

Renzo, meanwhile, walked with an excited step towards 
home, without having determined what he ought to do, but 
with a mad longing to do something strange and terrible. 
The unjust and oppressive, all those, in fact, who wrong 
others, are guilty, not only of the evil they do, but also of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 35 

the perversion of mind they cause in those whom they 
offend. Renzo was a young man of peaceful disposition, 
and averse to violence ; sincere, and one who abhorred deceit ; 
but at this moment, his heart panted for murder: his mind 
was occupied only in devising a plot. He would have wished 
to hasten to Don Rodrigo's house, to seize him by the throat, 
and . . . but he remem^bered that his house was like a fort- 
ress, garrisoned with bravoes within, and guarded without; 
that only friends and servants, well known, could enter 
freely, without being searched from head to foot; that an 
artisan, if unknown, could not put foot within it without 
an examination; and that he, above all . . , he probably 
would be too well known. He then fancied himself taking 
his fowling-piece, planting himself behind a hedge, looking 
out whether his enemy would ever, ever pass by, unaccom- 
panied; and dwelling with ferocious complacency on this 
thought, he imagined the sound of a step; at this sound he 
raises his head v/ithout noise; recognizes the wretch, raises 
the fowling-piece, takes aim — fires; sees him fall and strug- 
gle, bestows a malediction on him, and escapes in safety 
beyond the borders. — And Lucia? — Scarcety had this word 
come across these dreadful phantasies, when the better 
thoughts, with which Renzo was familiarized, crowded into 
his mind. He recalled the dying charge of his parents. The 
thought of God, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints, 
returned upon him; he remembered the consolation he had 
so often experienced from the recollection that he was free 
from crimes; he remembered the horror with which he had 
so often received the news of a murder ; and he awoke from 
this dream of blood with fear, with remorse, and yet with a 
sort of joy that he had but imagined it. But the thought of 
Lucia — how many thoughts it brought along with it ! So 
many hopes, so many promises, a future so bright, so secure, 
and this day so longed for ! And how, with what words an- 
nounce to her such news? And afterwards, what v/as to 
be done? How were their plans to be accomplished, in spite 
of this powerful and wicked enemy? Along with all this, 
not a defined suspicion, but a tormenting shadow flitted every 
moment through his mind. This overbearing act of Don 
Rodrigo could have no motive but a lawless passion for 



36 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Lucia. And Lucia ! could she have given him the smallest 
encouragement, the most distant hope? It was a thought 
which could not dwell for an instant in his mind. But was 
she aware of it? Could he have conceived this infamous 
passion without her perceiving it? Could he have carried 
matters so far, without having made an attempt in some 
other manner? And Lucia had never mentioned a word of 
it to him, her betrothed ! 

Overcome by these thoughts, he passed by his own house, 
which was situated in the middle of the village, and pro- 
ceeding through it, came to that of Lucia, which stood at the 
opposite end. This cottage had a little garden in front, which 
separated it from the road; and the garden was surrounded 
by a low wall. As Renzo entered the garden, he heard a 
confused and continual murmur of voices from an upper 
room. He supposed it was friends and companions come 
to greet Lucia; and he did not wish to show himself to this 
company with the sad news he had to communicate visible in 
his face. A little girl, who happened to be in the garden, 
ran to meet him, crying, * The bridegroom ! the bride- 
groom ! ' 

'Gently, Bettina, gently!' said Renzo. * Come here; go 
up to Lucia, take her on one side and whisper in her ear 
. . . but mind no one hears, or suspects . . . tell her I want 
to speak to her, and that I'm waiting in the down-stairs room, 
and that she must come immediately.' The child ran quickly 
up-stairs, delighted and proud to be entrusted with a secret. 

Lucia had just come forth adorned from head to foot by, 
the hands of her mother. Her friends were stealing glances 
at the bride, and forcing her to show herself ; while she, with 
the somewhat warlike modesty of a rustic, was endeavouring 
to escape, using her arms as a shield for her face, and hold- 
ing her head downwards, her black pencilled eyebrows 
seeming to frown, while her lips were smiling. Her dark 
and luxuriant hair, divided on her forehead with a white 
and narrow parting, was united behind in many-circled 
plaitings, pierced with long silver pins, disposed around, so 
as to look like an aureola, or saintly glory, a fashion still in 
use among the Milanese peasant-girls. Round her neck she 
had a necklace of garnets, alternated with beads of filigree 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 37 

gold. She wore a pretty bodice of flowered brocade, laced 
with coloured ribbons, a short gown of embroidered silk, 
plaited in close and minute folds, scarlet stockings, and a 
pair of shoes also of embroidered silk. Besides these, which 
were the special ornaments of her wedding-day, Lucia had 
the every-day ornament of a modest beauty, displayed at 
this time, and increased by the varied feelings which were 
depicted in her face: joy tempered by a slight confusion, that 
placid sadness which occasionally shows itself on the face 
of a bride, and without injuring her beauty, gives it an air 
peculiar to itself. The little Bettina made her way among 
the talkers, came close up to Lucia, cleverly made her un- 
derstand that she had something to com^municate, and whis- 
pered her little message in her ear. * I am going for a 
moment, and will be back directly,' said Lucia to her friends, 
and hastily descended the stairs. 

On seeing the changed look and the unquiet manner of 
Renzo, * What is the matter ? ' she exclaimed, not without a 
presentiment of terror. 

* Lucia ! ' replied Renzo, * it is all up for to-day ; and God 
knows when we can be man and wife.' 

* What ? ' said Lucia, altogether amazed. Renzo briefly 
related to her the events of the morning; she listened in 
great distress; and when she heard the name of Don 
Rodrigo, *Ah ! ' she exclaimed, blushing and trembling, * has 
it come to this point ! ' 

' Then you knew it ? . . .' said Renzo. 

* Indeed too well,' answered Lucia, ' but to this point ! ' 

* What did you know about it ? ' 

* Don't make me speak now, don't make me cry. I will 
run and call my mother, and send away the girls. We must 
be alone.' 

While she was going, Renzo murmured, ' You never told 
me anything about it.' 

'Ah, Renzo ! ' replied Lucia, turning round for a moment 
without stopping. Renzo understood very well that his name 
so pronounced by Lucia, at that moment, in such a tone, meant 
to say, Can you doubt that I could be silent, except on just 
and pure motives? 

By this time the good Agnese — (so Lucia's mother was 



38 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

named), incited to suspicion and curiosity by the whisper 
in her ear, — had come down to see what was the m-atter. 
Her daughter, leaving her with Renzo, returned to the as- 
sembled maidens, and, composing her voice and manner as 
well as she could, said, * The Signor Curate is ill, and nothing 
will be done to-day/ This said, she hastily bid them good- 
bye, and went down again. The company departed, and dis- 
persed themselves through the village, to recount what had 
happened, and to discover whether Don Abbondio was really 
ill. The truth of the fact cut short all the conjectures which 
had already begun to work in their minds, and to be dis- 
covered undefined and mysteriously in their words. 




CHAPTER III 

"HILE Renzo was relating with pain what Agnese 
with pain listened to, Lucia entered the room. 
They both turned towards her: she indeed knew 
more about it than they, and of her they awaited an explana- 
tion, which could not but be distressing. In the midst of 
their sorrow they both, according to the different nature 
of the love they bore Lucia, discovered in their own manner 
a degree of anger that she had concealed anything from 
them, especially of such a nature. Agnese, although anxious 
to hear her daughter speak, could not refrain from a slight 
reproof, * To say^ nothing to your mother in such a case ! ' 

* Now I will tell you all,' answered Lucia, as she dried her 
eyes with her apron. 

' Speak, speak ! — Speak, speak ! ' at once cried both mother 
and lover, 

' Most Holy Virgin ! ' exclaimed Lucia, * who could have 
believed it would have come to this ! ' Then with a voice 
tremulous with weeping, she related how, as she was re- 
turning from her spinning, and had loitered behind her com- 
panions, Don Rodrigo, in company with another gentleman, 
had passed by her ; that he had tried to engage her in foolish 
talk, as she called it; but she, without giving him an answer, 
had quickened her pace, and joined her companions; then 
she had heard the other gentleman laugh loudly, and Don 
Rodrigo say, ' I'll lay you a wager/ The next day they were 
again on the road, but Lucia was in the midst of her com- 
panions with her eyes on the ground ; when the other gentle- 
man laughed, and Don Rodrigo said, ' We shall see, we shall 
V see.' * This day,' continued Lucia, * thank God, was the 
last of the spinning. I related immediately » . .' 

^ Who was it you told it to ? ' demanded Agnese, waiting, 
not without a little displeasure, for the name of the con- 
fidante who had been preferred. 

* To father Cristoforo, in confession, mamma,' replied 
Lucia, with a sweet tone of apology. * I related the whole 



40 ALESSANDRO MANZOlSi: 

to him, the last time we went to church together, at the 
convent: and if you noticed, that morning I kept putting 
my hand to one thing and another, to pass the time till other 
people were on the road, that we might go in company with 
them; because, after that meeting, the roads make me so 
frightened.' 

At the reverend name of father Cristoforo, the wrath of 
Agnese subsided. * You did well,' said she ; ' but why not 
tell all to your mother also ? ' 

Lucia had had two good reasons: one not to distress and 
frighten the good woman, about an event against which she 
could have found no remedy; the other not to run the risk 
of a story travelling from mouth to mouth, which she wished 
to be kept with jealous silence; the more so because Lucia 
hoped that her marriage would have cut short at the begin- 
ning this abominated persecution. Of these two reasons 
she alleged only the first. 'And to you,' said she, turning to 
Renzo, with that tone which reminds a friend that he is un- 
reasonable: 'And to you could I speak about this? Surely 
you know too much of it now ! ' 

'And what did the father say to you ? ' asked Agnese. 

* He told me that I must try to hasten the wedding as 
much as I could, and in the mean time to keep myself within- 
doors ; that I should pray to the Lord ; and he hoped that this 
man, if he did not see me, would not care any more about 
me. And it was then that I forced myself,' continued she, 
turning again towards Renzo, without however raising her 
eyes, and blushing to the temples, ' it was then that I put 
on a too-bold face, and begged you to get it done soon, 
and have it concluded before the fixed time. Who knows 
what you must have thought of me ! But I did it for good, 
and it was advised me, and J thought for certain . . . and 
this morning I was so far from thinking . . .' 

Here Lucia's words were cut short by a violent burst of 
tears, 

'Ah, rascal ! wretch ! murderer ! ' exclaimed Renzo, strid- 
ing backwards and forwards across the room, and grasping 
from time to time the hilt of his dagger. 

' Oh, heavens, what a fury ! ' exclaimed Agnese. The 
young man suddenly drew himself up before Lucia, who 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 41 

was weeping, looked at her with an anxious and embittered 
tenderness, and said, ' This is the last deed this assassin 
shall do.' 

'Ah, no, Renzo, for Heaven's sake ! ' cried Lucia ; ' no, 
no, for Heaven's sake ! God is on the side of the poor, and 
how can we expect him to help us if v/e do wrong?' 

* No, no, for Heaven's sake ! ' echoed Agnese. 

* Renzo,' said Lucia, with an air of hope and more tran- 
quil resolution, * you have a trade, and I know how to work ; 
let us go so far off that this man will hear no more about us.' 

'Ah, Lucia ! and what then ? We are not yet man and 
wife ! Will the curate give us a certificate of no impedi- 
ment, such a man as he is? If we were married, oh 
then! . . .' 

Lucia began to weep again, and all three remained silent, 
giving signs of depression which contrasted strangely with 
the festive gaiety of their dress. 

* Listen, m.y children ; attend to me,' said Agnese, after 
some moments ; ' I came into the world long before you ; 
and I know something about the world. You need not 
frighten yourselves too much : things are not so bad as 
people make out. To us poor people the skein seems more 
entangled because we cannot get hold of the right end; but 
soraetimxcs a piece of good advice, a little talk with a man 
who has got learning ... I know well enough what I would 
say. Do as I tell you, Renzo; go to Lecco, seek for Dr 
Azzecca-Garbugli,^ tell him all about it, — but mind you 
don't call him so, for Heaven's sake : it's a nick-name. You 
must tell the Signor Doctor — What in the world do they call 
him ? Oh dear ! I don't know his right name : everybody 
calls him so. Never mind, seek for this doctor; he is tall, 
thin, bald, with a red nose and a raspberry-coloured mole on 
his cheek.' 

* I know him by sight,' said Renzo. 

' Well,' continued Agnese, ' he is a man ! I have seen 
more than one person, bothered like a chicken in a bundle 
of hemp, and who did not know where to put his head, and 
after being an hour nose to nose with the Dr Azzecca- 
Garbugli, (take good care you don't call him so) — I have 

^ i. e., a pioker of quarrels. 



42 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

iseen him, I say, make a joke of it. Take these four capons, 
poor creatures ! whose necks I ought to have wrung for 
to-night's supper, and carry them to him; because we must 
never go empty-handed to these gentlemen. Relate to him 
all that has happened, and you'll see he will tell you, in a 
twinkling, things which would not come into our heads if 
we were to think about them for a year.' 

Renzo willingly embraced this counsel; Lucia approved 
it; and Agnese, proud of having given it, took the poor 
creatures one by one from the hen-coop, united their eight 
legs, as one makes up a bunch of flowers, tied them up with 
a piece of string, and consigned them to the hands of Renzo, 
who, after giving and receiving words of encouragement 
and hope, went out by a little gate from the garden, that he 
might escape the observation of the boys, who would have 
run after him, crying, * The bridegroom ! the bridegroom ! ' 
Thus, having crossed the fields, or, as they call them there, 
the places^ he continued his route along narrow lanes, giving 
utterance to his bitter thoughts, as he reflected on his mis- 
fortune, and considering what he must say to the Dr Azzec- 
ca-Garbugli. I leave it to the reader to think how the 
journey was enjoyed by those poor creatures, so bound to- 
gether, and held by the feet with their heads downwards, in 
the hand of a man who, agitated hy so many passions, ac- 
companied with appropriate gestures the thoughts which 
rushed tumultuously through his mind; and in moments of 
anger or determination, suddenly extending his arm, inflicted 
terrible shocks upon them, and caused those four pendent 
heads to hoh violently, if we may be allowed the expression ; 
they, meanwhile, vigorously applying themselves to peck each 
other, as too often happens among friends in adversity. 

Arriving at the village, he inquired for the Doctor's house, 
and when it was pointed out to him, quickly made his way 
thither. On approaching it, however, he began to feel that 
bashfulness so usual with the poor and ignorant in the 
presence of a gentleman or man of learning, and forgot all 
the fine speeches he had prepared ; but a glance at the chick- 
ens he carried in his hand restored his courage. He went 
into the kitchen, and asked the maid-servant if he could see 
the Signor Doctor. The woman looked at the birds, and, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 43 

as if accustomed to such presents, was about to take them in 
her hand, but Renzo held them back, because he wanted the 
Doctor to see he had brought something with him. Just at 
this moment, the wished-for personage made his appearance, 
as the servant was saying, ^ Give them here, and go forward 
to the study.' Renzo made a low bow to the Doctor, who 
graciously bid him * Come in, my son,' and took him into 
his study. It was a large room, decorated on three sides 
with portraits of the twelve Csesars ; the remaining wall was 
hidden by a large bookcase, filled with old and dusty books : 
in the middle of the room stood a table covered with extracts, 
petitions, libels, and proclamations: three or four chairs 
were scattered around, and on one side was a large arm- 
chair, with a high square back, terminating at the corners 
in two horn-shaped ornaments of wood, and covered with 
leather, fastened down with large nails. Some of these had 
fallen out, so that the leather curled up here and there at 
pleasure, leaving the corners unencumbered. The Doctor 
was in his dressing-gown ; that is to say, he had on a faded 
robe, v/hich had served him for m.any years to harangue in 
on days of state, when he went to Milan on any important 
cause. Having shut the door, he re-animated the young 
man's confidence vv^ith these words : * Tell me your case, 
my son.' 

* I wish to speak a word to you in confi.dence.' 

' I'm ready — speak,' replied the Doctor, seating him.self on 
his arm-chair. 

Renzo stood before the table, and twirling his hat with 
his right hand round the other, continued : ' I want to know 
from you, who have studied . . .' 

* Tell the case as it is,' interrupted the Doctor. 

* Excuse me, Signor Doctor : we poor people don't know 
how to speak properly. I want, then, to know . . .' 

* Blessed set you are ! You are all alike. Instead of re- 
lating your case, you ask questions, because you've already 
made up your minds.' 

' I beg your pardon, Signor Doctor. I want to know if 
there's any punishment for threatening a curate, and for- 
bidding him to celebrate a marriage ? ' 

* I understand,' muttered the doctor, who in truth had not 



44 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

understood ; ' I understand.' He then put on a serious face ; 
but it was a seriousness mingled with an air of compassion 
and importance; and, pressing his Hps, he uttered an inar- 
ticulate sound, betokening a sentiment, afterwards more 
clearly expressed in his first words. *A serious case, my 
son. There are laws to the point. You have done well to 
come to me. It is a clear case, recognized in a hundred 
proclamations, and . . . stay ! in an edict of the last year, 
by the present Signor Governor. I'll let you see it and 
handle it directly.' 

So saying, he rose from his seat, and hunted through the 
chaos of papers, shovelling the lower ones uppermost with 
his hands, as if he were throwing corn into a measure. 

' Where can it be ? Come nearer, come nearer. One is 
obliged to have so many things in hand ! But it must surely 
be here, for it is a proclamation of importance. Ah ! here 
it is, here it is ! ' He took it, unfolded it, looked at the date, 
and with a still more serious face, continued, ' The fifteenth 
of October, 1627. Certainly; it is last year's; a fresh proc- 
lamation; it is these that cause such fear. Can you read, 
my son ? ' 

*A little, Signor Doctor.' 

* Very well, f ollov/ me with your eye, and you shall see.' 
And holding the edict displayed in the air, he began to 
read, rapidly muttering some passages, and pausing dis- 
tinctly, with marked emphasis, upon others, as the case re- 
quired. 

'Although in the proclamation published by order of the 
Signor Duke of Feria, the 14th December, 1620, and con- 
firmed by the Most Illustrious and Most Excellent Signor, 
the Signor Gonsalo Fernandez de Cordova, &c., there zvas 
provision made, by extraordinary and rigourous measures, 
against oppressions, commotions, and tyrannical acts that 
some persons dare to commit against the devoted subjects of 
his Majesty; nevertheless, the frequency of crimes and vio- 
lences, &c., has increased to such a degree, that his Ex- 
cellency is under the necessity, &c. Wherefore, zvith the 
concurrence of the Senate and a Council, &c., he has re- 
solved to publish the present edict. 

'And, to begin zvith tyrannical acts, experience shozving^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 45 

that many, as zuell in cities, as in the country. Do you hear? 
excite commotions in this state by violence, and oppress the 
weak in various ways, as, for example, by compelling them 
to make hard bargains in purchases, rents, &c., where am 
I ? ah ! here ! look — to perform or not to perform mar- 
riages; eh ! ' 

' That is my case/ said Renzo. 

' Listen, listen ; there is plenty more ; and then we shall 
see the penalty. To give evidence, or not to give evidence; 
compelling one to leave his home, &c., another to pay a debt: 
all this has nothing to do with us. Ah ! we have it here ; 
this priest not to perform that to which he is obliged by his 
oHice, or to do things which do not belong to him. Eh ! ' 

' It seems as if they had made the edict exactly for me.' 

' Eh ! is it not so ? listen, listen : and similar oppressions, 
whether perpetrated by feudatories, the nobility, middle 
ranks, lower orders, or plebeians. No one escapes : they are 
all here: it is like the valley of Jehoshaphat. Listen now 
to the penalty. All these, and other such like criminal acts, 
although they are prohibited, nevertheless, it being necessary 
to use greater rigour, his Excellency, not relenting in this 
proclamation, &c., enjoins and commands that against all 
offenders under any of the above-mentioned heads, or the 
like, all the ordinary magistrates of the state shall proceed 
by pecuniary and corporal punishment, by banishment or the 
galleys, and even by death ... a mere bagatelle ! at the 
will of his Excellency or of the Senate, according to the char- 
acter of the cases, persons, and circumstances. And this ir- 
RE-Mis-si-BLY, and with all rigour, &c. There's plenty of it 
here, eh ? And see, here's the signature : Gonsalo Fernandez 
de Cordova: and lower down; Platonus; and here again: 
Vidit Ferrer: there's nothing wanting.' 

While the Doctor was reading, Renzo slowly followed 
him with his eye, trying to draw out the simple meaning, 
and to behold for himself those blessed words, which he 
believed were to render him assistance. The Doctor, see- 
ing his client more attentive than alarmed, was greatly 
surprised. He must be matriculated, said he to himself — 
' Ah ! ah ! ' added he aloud ; ' you have been obliged to 
shave off the lock. You have been prudent; however you 



46 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

need not have done so, when putting yourself under my 
hands. The case is serious; but you don't know what I 
have courage to do in a time of need.' 

To understand this mistake of the Doctor^s, it must be 
known, that at that time, bravoes by profession, and villains 
of every kind, used to v/ear a long lock of hair, which 
they drew over the face like a visor on meeting any one, 
when the occasion was one which rendered disguise neces- 
sary, and the undertaking such as required both force and 
circumspection. 

The proclamation had not been silent with regard to 
this matter. 'His Excellency (the Marquis of La Hyno- 
J0S3.) commands that whosoever shall wear his hair of such 
a length as to cover his forehead as far as the eyebrows only, 
or shall wear tresses either before or behind the ears, shall 
incur the penalty of three hundred crowns; or in case of 
inability, three years in the galleys for the first oifence, 
and for the second, besides the above, a severer penalty still, 
at the will of his Excellency. 

'However, in case of baldness or other reasofiable cause, 
as a mark or wound, he gives permission to such, for their 
greater decorum or health, to wear their hair so long as may 
he necessary to cover such failings, and no more; warning 
them well to beware of exceeding the limits of duty and 
'pure necessity, that they may not incur the penalty imposed 
upon other dissemblers. 

'And he also commands all barbers, under penalty of a 
hundred crowns, or three stripes, to be given them in public, 
and even greater corporal punishment, at the will of his 
Excellency, as above, that they leave not on those zuhom 
they shave, any kind of the said tresses, locks, curls, or hair, 
longer than usual, either on the forehead, temples, or be- 
hind the ears; but that they shall be all of equal length, as 
above, except in case of baldness, or other defects, as already 
described.' The lock, then, might almost be considered a 
part of the armour, and a distinctive mark of bravoes and 
vagabonds; so that these characters very commonly bore 
the name of Citiifi.^ This term is still used, with a miti- 
gated signification, in the dialect of the country; and, per- 

^ 2. e.. Locks. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 47 

haps, there is not one of our Milanese readers who does not 
remember hearing it said of him, in his childhood, either 
by his relatives, his tutor, or some family friend, ' He is 
a Cuiifo; he is a Chiffetto ' 

* On the word of a poor youth,' replied Renzo, ' I never 
wore a lock in my life,' 

' I can do nothing,' replied the Doctor, shaking his head, 
with a smile between malice and impatience. ' If you don't 
trust me, I can do nothing. He who tells lies to the lawyer, 
do you see, my son, is a fool who will tell the truth to the 
judge. People must relate m^atters clearly to the advocate: 
it is our business to make them intricate. If you wish me to 
help you, you must tell me all from a to s, with your heart in 
your hand, as if to your confessor. You must name the 
person who has employed you. He will most likely be a 
person of consequence; and, in that case, I will go to him 
to perform an act of duty. I shan't, however, tell him, 
do you see, that you told me he had sent you, trust me. 
I will tell him I come to implore his protection for a 
poor slandered youth, and will take all necessary meas- 
ures with him to finish the affair commendably. You 
understand, that, in securing himself, he will also secure 
you. Even if the scrape be all your ov/n, I v/on't go 
back; I have extricated others from worse predicaments. 
And if you have not offended a person of quality, you 
understand, I will engage to get you out of the diffi- 
culty — with a little expense, you understand. You must 
"ell me who is the offended party, as they say; and ac- 
:ording to the condition, rank, and temper of the person, 
NQ shall see whether it will be better to bring him to 
reason by offers" of protection, or, in some way, to crim- 
inate him, and put a flea in his ear; because, you see, I 
know very well how to manage these edicts; no one must 
be guilty, and no one must be innocent. As to the curate, 
if he has any discretion, he v/ill keep in the back-ground j 
if he is a simpleton, v/e will dispose of him too. One can 
escape from any intrigue; but it requires one to act like 
a man; and your case is serious — serious, I say, serious; 
the edict speaks clearly ; and if the matter were to be decided 
betv/een justice and you, to say the truth, it v/ould go hard 



48 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

with you. I speak to you as a friend. One must pay for 
pranks; if you wish to get off clear, money and frankness 
— trust yourself to one v/ho wishes you well ; obey, and do all 
that is suggested to you/ 

While the Doctor poured forth this rhapsody, Renzo 
stood looking at him, with the spell-bound attention of a 
labouring m.an watching a juggler in the street, who, after 
thrusting into his mouth handful after handful of tow, 
draws forth thence ribbon — ribbon — ribbon — seemingly with- 
out end. When, at last, he understood what the Doctor 
was saying, and the strange mistake he had made, he cut 
short the ribbon in his mouth with these words : ' Oh, 
Signor Doctor, how have you understood me? The case 
is exactly the other way. I have threatened no one; I 
never do such things, not I; ask all my neighbours, and 
you will hear I have never had anything to do with the 
law. The trick has been played upon me; and I came to 
ask you what I must do to get justice, and I am very glad 
that I have seen this edict' 

* Hang him ! ' exclaimed the Doctor, opening his eyes. 
* What a medley you have made ! So it is : you are all 
alike; is it possible you don't know how to tell things 
plainly ? ' 

* I beg your pardon, Signor Doctor, you didn't give me 
time; now I will relate the case as it is. You must know, 
then, that I was to have married to-day,' and here Renzo's 
voice became tremulous — * I was to have married to-day 
a young woman to whom I have paid my addresses since 
the beginning of summer; and this was the day, as I said, 
that was fixed with the Signor Curate, and everything 
was ready. Well, this morning, the Signor Curate began 
to throw out some excuses . . . however, not to tire you, 
I will only say, I made him speak, as was but just; and 
he confessed that he had been forbidden under pain of 
death, to celebrate this marriage. This tyrant of a Don 
Rodrigo . . . ' 

' Get you gone ! ' quickly interrupted the Doctor, rais- 
ing his eyebrows, wrinkling his red nose, and distorting 
his mouth; * get you gone! Why do you com.e here to 
rack my brain with these liespj Talk in this way to your 



I PROMESSI SPOST 49 

companions, who don't know the meaning of words, and 
don't come and utter them to a gentleman who knows 
well what they are worth. Go away, go away; you don't 
know what you are talking about; I don't meddle with 
boys ; I don't want to hear talk of this sort : talk in the air/ 

* I will take an oath . . .' 

' Get you gone, I tell you ; what do I care for your 
oaths ! I won't enter into the business ; I wash my hands 
of it.' And he began rubbing and twirling them one over 
the other, as if he w^ere really washing them. ' Learn 
how to speak; and don't come and take a gentleman thus 
by surprise.' 

' But listen — but listen,' vainly repeated Renzo. The 
Doctor, fuming all the tim.e, pushed him towards the door, 
and, on reaching it, set it wide open, called the servant, 
and said, ' Be quick and give this man what he brought. 
I want nothing, I want nothing.' The woman had never 
before executed a similar order all the time she had been 
in the Doctor's service; but it was pronounced in so res- 
olute a manner, that she did not hesitate to obey. So, 
taking the four poor birds, she gave them to Renzo, with 
a look of contemptuous compassion, which seemed to say, 
*you must indeed have made a grand blunder.' Renzo 
tried to be ceremonious, but the Doctor was inexorable ; and 
the unhappy wight, astonished and bewildered, and more 
wrathful than ever, was compelled to take back the restored 
victims, and return to the country to relate the pleasing 
result of his expedition to Agnese and Lucia. 

During his absence, after sorrowfully changing their 
nuptial robes for the humble daily dress, they had set them- 
selves to consult anew, Lucia sobbing, Agnese sighing mourn- 
fully, from time to time. When Agnese had sufficiently en- 
larged upon the great effects they might hope for from the 
Doctor's advice, Lucia remarked, that they ought to try 
every method likely to assist them; that Father Cristoforo 
was a man not only to advise, but also to render more 
effectual assistance, where it concerned the poor and un- 
fortunate; and that it v/ould be a good thing if they could 
let him know what had happened. 

*It would, indeed/ replied Agnese;^ and they began im- 



50 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

mediately to contrive together some plan to accomplish 
it; since, to go themselves to the convent, distant, perhaps, 
two miles, was an undertaking they would rather not risk 
that day; and, certainly, no one with any judgment would 
have advised them to do so. V/hile, however, they were 
thus engaged in weighing the different sides o£ the question, 
they heard a knock at the door; and at the same moment, 
a low but distinct Deo Gratias. Lucia, wondering who it 
could be, ran to open it, and immediately, making a low 
bow, there entered a lay Capuchin collector, his bag hang- 
ing over his left shoulder, and the mouth of it twisted and 
held tight in his two hands, over his breast. ' Oh, brother 
Galdino ! ' exclaimed the two women. ' The Lord be with 
you,' said the friar ; * I have come to beg for the nuts.' 

' Go and fetch the nuts for the Fathers,' said Agnese. 
Lucia arose, and m.oved towards the other room; but, be- 
fore entering it, she paused behind the friar's back, who 
remained standing in exactly the same position; and put- 
ting her fore-finger on her lips, gave her mother a look 
demanding secrecy, in which were mingled tenderness, sup- 
plication, and even a certain air of authority. 

The collector, inquisitively eying Agnese at a distance, 
said, *And this wedding? I thought it was to have been 
to-day; but I noticed a stir in the neighbourhood, as if in- 
dicating something new. What has happened ? ' 

'The Signor Curate is ill, and we are obliged to post- 
pone it,' hastily replied Agnese. Probably the answer 
might have been very different, if Lucia had not given her 
the hint. ' And how does the collection go on ? ' added 
she, wishing to change the conversation. 

' Badly, good woman, badly. They are all here.' A.nd so 
saying, he took the wallet off his shoulders and tossed it up 
between his hands into the air. ' They are all here ; and to 
collect this mighty abundance, I have had to knock at ten 
doors.' 

' But the year is scarce, brother Galdino ; and when one 
has to struggle for bread, one measures everything ac- 
cording to the scarcity.' 

' And v/hat must we do, good wom.an, to make better times 
return? Gi^e alms. Don't you know the miracle of the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 51 

nuts that happened many years ago in our Convent of 
Romagna ? ' 

* No, indeed ! tell me/ 

* Well, you must know, then, that in our convent, there 
was a holy Father, whose name was Father Macario. One 
day, in winter, walking along a narrow path, in a field be- 
longing to one of our benefactors — a good man also — 
Father Macario saw him standing near a large walnut-tree, 
and four peasants, with axes upraised, about to fell it, having 
laid bare its roots to the sun. " What are you doing to 
this poor tree?" asked Father Macario. "Why, Father, 
it has borne no fruit for many years, so now I will make 
firing of it." "Leave it, leave it," said the Father; "be 
assured this year it will produce more fruit than leaves." 
The benefactor, knowing who it was that had uttered 
these words, immediately ordered the workmen to throw the 
soil upon the roots again; and calling to the Father, who 
continued his walk, said, " Father Macario, half of the crop 
shall be for the convent." The report of the prophecy 
spread, and every one flocked to see the tree. Spring, in 
very truth, brought blossom.s without number, and then fol- 
lowed nuts — nuts without number. The good benefactor 
had not the happiness of gathering them, for he went before 
the harvest to receive the reward of his charity. But the 
miracle was, in consequence, so much the greater, as you 
will hear. This worthy man left behind him a son of 
very different character. Well, then, at the time of gather- 
ing, the collector went to receive the m.oiety belonging to the 
convent; but the son pretended perfect ignorance of the mat- 
ter, and had the temerity to reply, that he had never heard that 
Capuchins knew how to gather nuts. What do you think 
happened then? One day, (listen to this,) the knave was 
entertaining a party of his friends, of the same genus as 
himself, and while making merry, he related the story of the 
walnuts, and ridiculed the friars. His jovial friends wished 
to go see this wonderful heap of nuts, and he conducted them 
to the store house. But listen now; he opened the^door, 
went towards the corner where the great heap had been laid, 
and while saying, " Look," he looked himself, and saw— 
what do you think? — a magnificent heap of withered wal- 



52 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

nut-leaves ! This was a lesson for him ! and the convent, 
instead of being a loser by the denied alms, gained thereby; 
for, after so great a miracle, the contribution of nuts in- 
creased to such a degree, that a benefactor, moved with pity 
for the poor collector, made a present to the convent of an 
ass, to assist in carrying the nuts home. And so much oil 
was made, that all the poor in the neighbourhood came and 
had as much as they required; for we are like the sea, 
which receives water from all quarters, and returns it 
to be again distributed through the rivers/ 

At this moment Lucia returned, her apron so laden with 
nuts, that it was with difficulty she could manage it, holding 
the two corners stretched out at arm's length, while the 
friar Galdino lifted the sack off his shoulders, and putting 
it on 'the ground, opened the mouth for the reception of the 
abundant gift. Agnese glanced towards Lucia a surprised 
and reproachful look for her prodigality; but Lucia re- 
turned a glance which seemed to say, ' I will justify myself.' 
The friar broke forth into praises, prognostications, promi- 
ses, and expressions of gratitude, and replacing his bag, was 
about to depart. But Lucia, recalling him, said, * I want you 
to do me a kindness; I want you to tell Father Cristoforo 
that we earnestly wish to speak to him, and ask him to be 
so good as come to us poor people quickly — directly; for 
I cannot go to the church.' 

* Is this all ? It shall not be an iiour before Father 
Cristoforo knows your wish.' 

* I believe you.' 

* You need not fear.' And so saying, he departed, rather 
more burdened and a little better satisfied than when he 
entered the house. 

Let no one think, on hearing that a poor girl sent to 
ask with such confidence for Father Cristoforo, and that 
the collector accepted the commission without wonder and 
without difficulty — let no one, I say, suppose that this Cristo- 
foro was a mean friar — a person of no importance. He was, 
on th^ contrary, a man who had great authority among 
his friends, and in the country around; but, such was the 
condition of the Capuchins, that nothing appeared to them 
either too high or too low. To minister to the basest, and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 53 

to be ministered to by the most powerful; to enter palaces 
or hovels with the same deportment of humility and security; 
to be sometimes in the same house the object of ridicule and 
a person without whom nothing could be decided; to solicit 
alms everywhere, and distribute them to all those who 
begged at the convent:— a Capuchin was accustomed to 
all these. Traversing the road, he was equally liable to meet 
a noble who would reverently kiss the end of the rope 
round his waist, or a crowd of wicked boys, who, pretend- 
ing to be quarrelling among themselves, would fling at his 
beard dirt and mire. The word frate was pronounced in those 
days with the greatest respect, and again with the bitterest 
contempt; and the Capuchins, perhaps, more than any other 
order, were the objects of two directly opposite sentiments, 
and shared two directly opposite kinds of treatment; because, 
possessing no property, wearing a more than ordinarily dis- 
tinctive habit, and making more open professions of humili- 
ation, they exposed themselves more directly to the vener- 
ation, or the contumely, which these circumstances would 
excite, according to the different tempers and different 
opinions of men. 

As soon as the friar had left, — 'All those nuts ! ' ex- 
claimed Agnese : ^ and in such a year too ! ' 

* I beg pardon, mother,' replied Lucia : * but if we had 
only given like others, brother Galdino would have had 
to go about no one knows how long, before his wallet 
would have been filled; and we cannot tell when he would 
have returned to the convent; besides, what with chatting 
here and there, he would very likely have forgotten . . / 

' Ah 1 you thought v/isely ; and, after all, charity always 
brings a good reward,' said Agnese, who, spite of her 
little defects, was a good woman; and would have given 
everything she owned for this only daughter, whom she 
loved with the tenderest affection. 

At this moment Renzo arrived, and, entering with an 
irritated and mortified countenance, threw the chickens on 
the table; and this was the last sad vicissitude the poor 
creatures undervv^ent that day. 

* Fine advice you gave me ! ' said he to Agnese. * You 
sent me to a nice gentleman, to one who really helps the tin- 



54 ALESSANDEO MANZONI 

forttinate I ' And he began immediately to relate his re- 
ception at the Doctor's. Poor Agnese, astonished at his 
ill success, endeavoured to prove that her advice had beea 
good, and that Renzo had not gone about the business 
cleverly; but Lucia interrupted the question, by an- 
nouncing that she hoped they had found a better helper. 
Renzo welcomed the hope as most people do who are in 
misfortune and perplexity. ^ But if the Father,' said he, 
* does not find us a remedy, I will find one somehow or 
other.' The women recommended peace, patience, and pru- 
dence. * To-morrow,' said Lucia, ' Father Cristoforo will 
certainly come, and you'll see he will find some help that 
we poor people can't even imagine.' 

^I hope so,' said Renzo; 'but in any case I will get re- 
dress, or find some one to get it for me. There must be 
justice in the end, even in this world ! ' 

In such melancholy discourse, and in such occurrences 
as have been described, the day wore away, and began to 
decline. 

*Good night,' said Lucia, sorrowfully, to Renzo, who 
could not make up his mind to leave her. * Good night,' 
replied he, still more mournfully. 

' Some saint will help us,' added she. ' Be prudent, and 
try to be resigned.' Agnese added other advice of the 
same kind, and the bridegroom went away with fury in his 
heart, repeating all the while those strange words, 'There 
must be justice at last, even in this world!' So true is it 
that a man overwhelmed with great sorrows knows not 
what he is saying. 




CHAPTER IV 

I HE sun had scarcely risen above the horizon, when 
Father Cristoforo left the convent of Pescarenico, 
and proceeded towards the cottage where he was ex- 
pected. Pescarenico is a little town on the left bank of the 
Adda, or rather, we should say, of the lake, a few paces 
below the bridge; a group of houses, inhabited for the most 
part by fishermen, and adorned here and there with nets 
hung out to dry. The convent was situated (and the building 
still remains) outside the town, facing the entrance, on the 
road that leads from Lecco to Bergamo. The sky was serene, 
and as the sun gradually emerged from behind the mountain, 
the light descended from the summit of the opposite range, 
spreading itself rapidly over the steeps and through the 
valleys; while a soft autumnal breeze, shaking from the 
boughs the withered leaves of the mulberry, carried them 
away to fall at some distance from the tree. In the vine- 
yards on either hand, the red leaves of various shades 
glittered on the still festooned branches ; and the newly made 
nets appeared dark and distinct among the fields of white 
stubble sparkling in the dew. The scene was bright ; but the 
occasional sight of a human figure moving therein dispelled 
the cheerful thoughts which the scene was calculated to 
inspire. At every step one met with pale and emaciated 
beggars, either grown old in the business, or reduced by the 
necessity of the times to ask alms. They looked piteously 
at Father Cristoforo as they silently passed him; and al- 
though, as a Capuchin never had any money, they had 
nothing to hope from him, yet they gave him a bow of grati- 
tude for the alms which they had received, or were going 
to solicit, at the convent. The sight of the labourers scattered 
over the fields had in it something still more mournful. 
Some were sowing seed, but niggardly and unwillingly, like 
a man who risks something he highly prizes: others could 
with difficulty use the spade, and v/earily overturned the 
sods. The half-starved child^ holding by a cord the thin 

55 



56 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

meagre cow, and looking narrowly around, hastily stooped to 
steal from it some herb as food for the family, which hunger 
had taught them could be used to sustain life. Such sights 
as these at every step increased the sadness of the friar, 
who even now had a presentiment in his heart that he was 
going to hear of some misfortune. 

But why did he take so much thought for Lucia? And 
why, at the first intimation of her wish, did he attend to 
it so diligently, as if it were a call from the Father Pro- 
vincial? And who was this Father Cristoforo? — It will be 
necessary to answer all these inquiries. 

Father Cristoforo of * * * was a mian nearer sixty than 
fifty years of age. His shaven head, circled with a narrow 
line of hair, like a crown, according to the fashion of the 
Capuchin tonsure, was raised from time to time with a 
movement that betrayed somewhat of disdain and dis- 
quietude, and then quickly sank again in thoughts of lov/- 
liness and humility. His long, gray beard, covering his 
cheeks and chin, contrasted markedly with the prominent 
features of the upper part of his face, to which a long and 
habitual abstinence had rather given an air of gravity, than 
effaced the natural expression. His sunken eyes, usually 
bent on the ground, sometimes brightened up with .a momen- 
tary fire, like two spirited horses, under the hand of a driver 
whom they know by experience they cannot overcome; yet 
occasionally they indulge in a few gambols and prancings, 
for which they are quickly repaid by a smart jerk of 
the bit. 

Father Cristoforo had not always been thus: nor had he 
always been Cristoforo: his baptismal name was Ludovico. 
He was the son of a merchant of * * *, (these asterisks 
are all inserted by the circumspection of our anonymous 
author,) who, in his latter years, being considerably wealthy, 
and having only one son, had given up trade, and retired 
as an independent gentleman. 

In his new state of idleness he began to entertain a great 
contempt for the time he had spent in making money, and 
being useful in the world. Full of this fancy, he used every 
endeavour to make others forget that he had been a mer- 
chant; in fact, he wished to forget it himself. But the -ware- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 57 

Bouse, the bales, the journal, the measure, were for ever 

intruding upon his mind, like the shade of Banquo to Mac- 
beth, even amidst the honours of the table and the smiles 
of flatterers. It is impossible to describe the care of these 
poor mortals to avoid every word that might appear like an 
allusion to the former condition of their patron. One day, 
to mention a single instance, towards the end of dinner, in 
the moment of liveliest and most unrestrained festivity, when 
it would be difficult to say which was the merriest, the com- 
pany who em.ptied the table, or the host who filled it, he 
was rallying with friendly superiority one of his guests, the 
most prodigious eater in the world. He, meaning to return 
the joke, with the frankness of a child, and without the least 
shade of malice, replied, * Ah, I'm listening like a merchant.'* 
The poor offender was at once conscious of the unfortunate 
word that had escaped his lips; he cast a diffident glance 
towards his patron's clouded face, and each would gladly 
have resumed his former expression; but it was impossible. 
The other guests occupied themselves, each in his own mind, 
in devising somic plan of remedying the mistake, and making 
a diversion; but the silence thus occasioned only made the 
error more apparent. Each individual endeavoured to avoid 
meeting his companion's eye ; each felt that all were occupied 
in the thought they wished to conceal. Cheerfulness and 
sociability had fled for that day, and the poor man, not so 
much imprudent as unfortunate, never again received an 
invitation. In this manner, Ludovico's father passed his 
latter years, continually subject to annoyances, and perpetu- 
ally in dread of being despised; never reflecting that it was 
no more contemptuous to sell than to buy, and that the 
business of which he was now so much ashamed, had been 
carried on for many years before the public without regret. 
He gave his son an expensive education, according to the 
judgment of the times, and as far as he was permitted by 
the laws and customs of the country; he procured him mas- 
ters in the different branches of literature and in exercises 
of horsemanship, and at last died, leaving the youth heir 
to a large fortune. Ludovico had acquired gentlemanly 

^ ' lo faccio orecchie da mercante.' A proverbial expression, meaning, 
* I pay no attention to you,' which quite loses its point when translated 
%nto English. 



58 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

habits and feelings, and the flatterers by whom he had been 
surrounded had accustomed him to be treated with the 
greatest respects But when he endeavoured to mix with the 
first men of the city, he met with very different treatment 
to what he haH been accustomed to, and he began to perceive 
that, if he would be admitted into their society, as he desired, 
he must learn, in a new school, to be patient and submissive, 
and every moment to be looked down upon and despised. 

Such a mode of life accorded neither with the education 
of Ludovico, nor with his disposition, and he withdrew from 
it, highly piqued. Still he absented himself unwillingly; it 
appeared to him that these ought really to have been his 
companions, only he wanted them to be a little more trac- 
table. With this mixture of dislike and inclination, not being 
able to make them his familiar associates, yet wishing in 
some way to be connected with them, he endeavoured to 
rival them in show and magnificence, thus purchasing for 
himself enmity, jealousy, and ridicule. His disposition, open 
and at the same time violent, had occasionally engaged him 
in more serious contentions. He had a natural and sincere 
horror of fraud and oppression — a horror rendered still more 
vivid by the rank of those whom he saw daily committing 
them — exactly the persons he hated. To appease or to excite 
all these passions at once, he readily took the part of the 
weak and oppressed, assumed the office of arbitrator, and 
intermeddling in one dispute, drew himself into others; so 
that by degrees he established his character as a protector 
of the oppressed, and a vindicator of injuries. The employ- 
ment, however, was troublesome; and it need not be asked 
whether poor Ludovico met with enemies, untoward acci- 
dents, and vexations of spirit. Besides the external war he 
had to maintain, he was continually harassed by internal 
strifes; for, in order to carry out his undertakings, (not to 
speak of such as never were carried out,) he was often 
obliged to make use of subterfuges, and have recourse to 
violence which his conscience could not approve. He was 
compelled to keep around him a great number of bravoes; 
and, as much for his ovm security as to ensure vigorous 
assistance, he had to choose the most daring, or, in other 
words, the most unprincipled, and thus to live with villains 



I PEOMESSI SPOSI 59 

for the sake of justice. Yet on more than one occasion, 
either discouraged by ill success, or disquieted by imminent 
danger, wearied by a state of constant defence, disgusted 
with his companions, and in apprehension of dissipating his 
property, which was daily drawn upon largely, either in a 
good cause or in support of his bold enterprises, — more than 
once he had taken a fancy to turn friar; for in these times, 
this was the commonest way of escaping difficulties. This 
idea would probably have been only a fancy all his life, had 
it not been changed to a resolution by a more serious and 
terrible accident than he had yet met with. 

He was v/alking one day along the streets, in company, 
with a former shopkeeper^ w^hom his father had raised to 
the office of steward, and was followed by two bravoes. The 
steward, whose namie was Cristoforo, was about fifty years 
old, devoted from childhood to his m.aster, vv^hom he had 
known from, his birth, and by whose wages and liberality 
he was himself supported, with his wife and eight childreno 
Ludovico perceived a gentleman at a distance, an arrogant 
and overbearing man, whom he had never spoken to in his 
life, but his cordial enemy, to whom Ludovico heartily re- 
turned the hatred; for it is a singular advantage of this 
world, that men may hate and be hated without knowing each 
other. The Signor, followed by four bravoes, advanced 
haughtily with a proud step, his head raised, and his mouth 
expressive of insolence and contempt. They both walked 
next to the wall, which (be it observed) was on Ludovico's 
right hand ; and this, according to custom., gave him the right 
(how far people will go to pursue the right of a case!) of 
not moving from the said wall to give place to any one, to 
which custom at that time, great importance was attached. 
The Signor, on the contrary, in virtue of another custom, 
held that this right ought to be conceded to him in consid- 
eration of his rank, and that it was Ludovico's part to give 
way. So that in this, as it happens in many other cases, two 
opposing customs clashed, the question of v/hich was to have 
the preference remaining undecided, thus giving occasions 
of dispute, whenever one hard head chanced to come in 
contact with another of the same nature. The foes ap- 
proached each other, both close to the Wall, like two walking 



60 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

figures in bas-relief, and on finding themselves face to face, 
the Signer, eyeing Ludovico with a haughty air and im- 
perious frown, said, in a corresponding tone of voice, * Go 
to the outside/ 

* You go yourself,' replied Ludovico ; * the path is mine.' 

* With men of your rank the path is always mine.' 

* Yes, if the arrogance of men of your rank were a law for 
men of mine.' 

The two trains of attendants stood still, each behind its 
leader, fiercety regarding each other with their hands on 
their daggers prepared for battle, while the passers-by 
stopped on their way and withdrew into the road, placing 
themselves at a distance to observe the issue; the presence 
of these spectators continually animating the punctilio of 
the disputants, 

* To the outside, vile mechanic ! or I'll quickly teach you 
the civility 3^ou owe a gentleman.' 

* You lie : I am not vile.' 

* You lie, if you say I lie.' This reply was pragmatical. 
*And if you were a gentleman, as I am,' added the Signor, 
* I would prove with the sword that you are the liar.' 

' That is a capital pretext for dispensing with the trouble 
of maintaining the insolence of your words by your deeds.' 

* Throw this rascal in the mud,' said the Signor, turning 
to his followers. 

' We shall see,' said Ludovico, immediately retiring a step, 
and laying his hand on his sword. 

* Rash man ! ' cried the other, drawing his own, * I will 
break this when it is stained with your vile blood.' 

At these words they flew upon one another, the attendants 
of the two parties fighting in defence of their masters. The 
combat was unequal, both in number, and because Ludovico 
aimed rather at parrying the blows of, and disarming his 
enemy than killing him, while the Signor was resolved upon 
his fee's death at any cost. Ludovico had already received 
a blow from the dagger of one of the bravoes in his left 
arm, and a slight wound on his cheek, and his principal 
enemy was pressing on to make an end of him, when Cristo- 
foro, seeing his master in extreme peril, went behind the 
Signor with his dagger, who, turning all his fury upon his 



S PROMESSI SPOSI 61 

new enemy, ran him through with his sword. At this sight 
Ludovico, as if beside himself, buried his own in the body 
of his provoker, and laid him at his feet, almost at the same 
moment as the unfortunate Cristoforo. The followers of 
the Signor, seeing him on the ground, immediately betook 
themselves to flight : those of Ludovico, wounded and beaten, 
having no longer any one to fight with, and not wishing to 
be mingled in the rapidly increasing multitude, fled the other 
way, and Ludovico was left alone in the midst of the crowd, 
with these two ill-fated companions lying at his feet. 

* What's the matter ? — There's one, — There are two. — 
They have pierced his body. — Who has been murdered? — 
That tyrant. — Oh, Holy Mary, what a confusion ! — Seek, 
and you shall find. — One moment pays all. — So he is gone ! — 
What a blow ! — It must be a serious affair. — And this other 
poor fellow ! — Mercy ! what a sight ! — Save him, save him ! — 
It will go hard with him too. — See how he is mangled ! he is 
covered with blood. — Escape, poor fellow, escape ! — Take 
care you are not caught.' 

These words predominating over the confused tumult of 
the crowd, expressed their prevailing opinion, while assist- 
ance accompanied the advice. The scene had taken place 
near a Capuchin convent, an asylum in those days, as every 
one knows, impenetrable to bailiffs and all that complication 
of persons and things which went by the name of justice. 
The v/ounded and almost senseless murderer was conducted, 
or rather carried by the crowd, and delivered to the monks 
with the recommendation, * He is a worthy man who has 
made a proud tyrant cold; he was provoked to it, and did 
it in his own defence.' 

Ludovico had never before shed blood, and although homi- 
cide was in those times so common that every one was 
accustomed to hear of and witness it, yet the impression 
made on his mind by the sight of one man murdered for 
him, and another by him, was new and indescribable ; — a dis- 
closure of sentiments before unknown. The fall of his 
enemy, the sudden alteration of the features, passing in a 
moment from a threatening and furious expression to the 
calm and solemn stillness of death, was a sight that in- 
stantly changed the feelings of the murderer. He was 



62 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

dragged to the convent almost without knowing where he 
was, or what they were doing to him ; and when his memory 
returned, he found him.self on a bed in the infirmary, at- 
tended by a surgeon-friar, (for the Capuchins generally had 
one in each convent,) who was applying lint and bandages 
to the two wounds he had received in the contest. A father, 
whose special office it was to attend upon the d3ang, and who 
had frequently been called upon to exercise his duties in 
the street, was quickly summoned to the place of combat. 
He returned a few minutes afterwards, and entering the 
infirmary, approached the bed where Ludovico lay. * Com- 
fort yourself,' said he, ' he has at least died calmly, and has 
charged me to ask your pardon, and to convey his to you.' 
These words aroused poor Ludovico, and awakened more 
vividly and distinctly the feelings which confusedly crowded 
upon his mind; sorrow for his friend, consternation and re- 
morse for the blow that had escaped his hand, and at the 
same time a bitterly painful compassion for the man he had 
slain. 'And the other ? ' anxiously demanded he of the 
friar. 

^ The other had expired when I arrived.* 

In the mean while, the gates and precincts of the convent 
swarmed with idle and inquisitive people; but on the arrival 
of a body of constables, they dispersed the crowd, and placed 
themselves in ambush at a short distance from the doors, 
so that none might go out unobserved. A brother of the 
deceased, however, accompanied by two of his cousins and 
an aged uncle, came, armed cap-a-pie, with a powerful retinue 
of bravoes, and began to make the circuit of the convent, 
watching with looks and gestures of threatening contempt 
the idle by-standers, who did not dare say, He is out of 
your reach, though they had it written on their faces. 

As soon as Ludovico could collect his scattered thoughts, 
he asked for a Father Confessor, and begged that he would 
seek the widow of Cristoforo, ask forgiveness in his name 
for his having been the involuntary cause of her desolation, 
and at the same time assure her that he would undertake 
to provide for her destitute family. In reflecting on his 
own condition, the wish to become a friar, which he had 
often before revolved in his mind, revived with double force 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 63 

and earnestness; it seemed as if God himself, by bringing 
him to a convent just at this juncture, had put it in his 
way, and given him a sign of His v/ill, and his resolution 
was taken. He therefore called the guardian, and told him 
of his intention. The superior replied, that he must beware 
of forming precipitate resolutions, but that if, on consider- 
ation, he persisted in his desire he would not be refused. He 
then sent for a notary, and made an assignment of the whole 
of his property (which was no insignificant amount) to 
the family of Cristcforo, a certain sum to the widow, 
as if it were an entailed dowry, and the remainder to the 
children. 

The resolution of Ludovico cam.e very apropos for his 
hosts, who were in a sad dilemuna on his account. To send 
him away from the convent, and thus expose him to justice, 
that is to say, to the vengeance of his enemies, was a course 
on which they would not for a moment bestow a thought. 
It would have been to give up their proper privileges, dis- 
grace the convent in the eyes of the people, draw upon them- 
selves the animadversion of all the Capuchins in the universe 
for suffering their common rights to be infringed upon, and 
arouse all the ecclesiastical authorities, who at that time 
considered themselves the lawful guardians of these rights. 
On the other hand, the kindred of the slain, powerful them- 
selves, and strong in adherents, were prepared to take ven- 
geance, and denounced as their enemy any one who should 
put an obstacle in their way. The history does not tell us 
that m-uch grief was felt for the loss of the deceased, nor 
even that a single tear was shed over him by any of his re- 
lations : it merely says that they were all on fire to have the 
murderer, dead or living, in their power. But Ludovico's 
assuming the habit of a Capuchin settled all these difficulties; 
he made atonement in a manner, imposed a penance on 
himself, tacitly confessed himself in fault, and withdrew 
from the contest; he was, in fact, an enemy laying down 
his arms. The relatives of the dead could also, if they 
pleased, believe and make it their boast that he had turned 
friar in despair, and through dread of their vengeance. 
But in any case, to oblige a man to relinquish his property, 
shave his head, and walk barefoot, to sleep on straw, and 



64 ^LESSANDRO MANZONI 

to live upon alms, was surely a punishment fully equivalent 
to the most heinous offence. 

The Superior presented himself with, an easy humility ta 
the brother of the deceased, and after a thousand protesta- 
tions of respect for his most illustrious house, and of desire 
to comply with his wishes as far as was possible, he spoke 
of Ludovico's penitence, and the determination he had made, 
politely making it appear that his family ought to be there- 
with satisfied, and insinuating, yet more courteously, and with 
still greater dexterity, that whether he were pleased or not, 
so it would be. The brother fell into a rage, which the Ca- 
puchin patiently allowed to evaporate, occasionally remark- 
ing that he had too just cause of sorrow. The Signor also 
gave him to understand, that in any case his family had it in 
their power to enforce satisfaction, to which the Capuchin, 
whatever he might think, did not say no; and finally he 
asked, or rather required as a condition, that the murderer 
of his brother should immediately quit the city. The Ca- 
puchin, who had already determined upon such a course, 
replied that it should be as he wished, leaving the nobleman 
to believe, if he chose, that his compliance was an act of 
obedience : and thus the matter concluded to the satisfaction 
of all parties. The family were released from their obliga- 
tion; the friars had rescued a fellow-creature, and secured 
their own privileges, without making them-selves enemies; 
the dilettanti in chivalry gladly saw the affair terminated 
in so laudable a manner; the populace rejoiced at a worthy 
man's escaping from danger, and at the same time marvelled 
at his conversion; finally, and above all, in the midst of h^s 
sorrow, it was a consolation to poor Ludovico himself, to 
enter upon a life of expiation, and devote himself to services, 
which, though they could not remedy, might at least make 
some atonement, for his unhappy deed, and alleviate the in- 
tolerable pangs of remorse. The idea that his resolution 
might be attributed to fear pained him for a moment, but 
he quickly consoled himself by the remembrance that even 
this unjust imputation would be a punishment for him, and 
a means of expiation. Thus, at the age of thirty, Ludovico 
took the monastic habit, and being required, according to 
custom, to change his name, he chose one that would con- 



I PROMESSI SPOSr 65 

tinually remind him of the fault he had to atone for— the 

name of friar Cristoforo. 

Scarcely was the ceremony of taking the religious habit 
completed, when the guardian told him that he must keep 
his novitiate at * * *, sixty miles distant, and that he must 
leave the next day. The novice bowed respectfully, and 
requested a favour of him. 'Allow me, Father,' said he, 
*bef ore I quit the city where I have shed the blood of a 
feilow-creature, and leave a family justly offended with 
me, to make what satisfaction I can by at least confessing 
my sorrow, begging forgiveness of the brother of the de- 
ceased, and so removing, please God, the enmity he feels 
towards me.' The guardian, thinking that such an act, 
besides being good in itself, would also serve still more to 
reconcile the family to the convent, instantly repaired to the 
offended Signor's house, and communicated to him Friar 
Cristoforo's request. The Signer, greatly surprised at so 
unexpected a proposal, felt a rising of anger, mingled per- 
haps with complacency, and after thinking a moment, 
* Let him come to-morrow,' said he, mentioning the hour, 
and the Superior returned to the monastery to acquaint the 
novice with the desired permission. 

The gentleman soon remembered that the more solemn 
and notorious the submission was, the more his influence 
and importance would be increased among his friends and 
the public; and it would also, (to use a fashionable modern 
expression,) make a fine page in the history of the family. 
He therefore hastily sent to inform all his relatives, that 
the next day at noon they must hold themselves engaged to 
come to him, for the purpose of receiving a common satis- 
faction. At midday the palace swarmed with the nobility 
of both sexes and of every age; occasioning a confused 
intermingling of large cloaks, lofty plumes, and pendent 
jewels; a vibrating movement of stiffened and curled rib- 
bons, an impeded trailing of embroidered trains. The ante- 
rooms, court-yards, and the roads overflowed with servants, 
pages, bravoes, and inquisitive gazers. On seeing all this 
preparation. Friar Cristoforo guessed the motive, and felt 
a momentary perturbation; but he soon recovered himself, 
and said : — * Be it so ; I committed the murder publicly, in 

HC 3— VoL 21 



66 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the presence of many of his enemies; that was an injury; 
this is reparation.' — So, with the Father, his companion, at 
his side, and his eyes bent on the ground, he passed the 
threshold, traversed the court-yard among a crowd who eyed 
him with very unceremonious curiosity, ascended the stairs,' 
and in the midst of another crowd of nobles, who gave 
way at his approach, was usher gd, with a thousand eyes 
upon him, into the presence of the master of the mansion, 
who, surrounded hy his nearest relatives, stood in the 
centre of the room with a downcast look, grasping in his 
left hand the hilt of his sword, while with the right he folded 
the collar of his cloak over his breast. 

There is sometimes in the face and behaviour of a per- 
son so direct an expression, such an effusion, so to speak, 
of the internal soul, that in a crowd of spectators there will 
be but one judgment and opinion of him. So was it with 
Friar Cristoforo; his face and behaviour plainly expressed 
to the by-standers that he had not become a friar, nor sub- 
mitted to that humiliation, from the fear of man; and the 
discovery immediately conciliated all hearts. On perceiv- 
ing the offended Signor, he quickened his steps, fell on his 
knees at his feet, crossed his hands on his breast, and 
bending his shaved head, said, * I am the murderer of your 
brother. God knows how gladly I would restore him to you 
at the price of my own blood, but it cannot be: I can onl}' 
make inefficacious and tardy excuses, and implore you to 
accept them for God's sake.' All eyes were immovably 
fixed upon the novice and the illustrious personage he 
was addressing ; all ears were attentively listening ; and when 
Friar Cristoforo ceased, there was a murmur of compas- 
sion and respect throughout the room. The gentleman, who 
stood in an attitude of forced condescension and restrained 
anger, was much moved at these words, and bending 
towards the supplicant, ' Rise,' s^i6 he, in an altered 
tone. * The offence — the act certainly — but the habit you 
bear — not only so, but also yourself — Rise, Father — My 
brother — I cannot deny it — was a cavalier — was rather a 
^—precipitate man — rather hasty. But all happens by God's 
appointment. Speak of it no more . . . But, Father, 
jrou must not remain in this posture.' And taking him by 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 67 

the arm, he compelled him to rise. The friar, standing 
with his head bowed, and his eyes fixed on the ground, 
replied, *I may hope then that I have your f c-rgiveness ? 
And if I obtain it from you, from whom may I not hope 
it ? Oh ! if I might hear from your lips that one word- 
pardon ! ' 

' Pardon ! ' said the gentleman. * You no longer need it. 
But since you desire it, certainly . , . certainly, I pardon 
you with my whole heart, and all . . .' 

* All ! all ! ' exclaimed the by-standers, with one voice. The 
countenance of the friar expanded with grateful joy, under 
which, however, might be traced an humble and deep com- 
punction for the evil which the forgiveness of men could 
not repair. The gentlem.an, overcome by this deportment, 
and urged forward by the general feeling, threw his arms 
round Cristoforo's neck, and gave and received the kiss 
of peace. 

* Bravo ! well done ! ' burst forth from all parts of the 
room : there was a general movement, and all gathered round 
the friar. Servants immediately entered, bringing abund- 
ance of refreshment. The Signor, again addressing Cristo- 
foro, vv^ho was preparing to retire, said, ' Father, let me give 
you some of these trifles; afford me this proof of your 
friendship ; ' and was on the point of helping him before any 
of the others; but he, drawing back with a kind ofi friendly 
resistance, ' These things,' said he, ' are no longer for me ; 
but God forbid that I should refuse your gifts. I am about 
to start on my journe)''! allow me to take a loaf of bread, 
that I may be able to say I have shared your charity, 
eaten of your bread, and received a token of your forgive- 
ness.' The nobleman, much affected, ordered it to be 
brought, and shortly a waiter entered in full dress, bearing 
the loaf on a silver dish, and presented it to the Father, 
who took it with many thanks, and put it in his basket. 
Then, obtaining permission to depart, he bade farewell to 
the master of the house and those who stood nearest to him, 
and with difficulty made his escape as they endeavoured for 
a moment to impede his progress; v/hile, in the ante- 
rooms, he had to struggle to free himself from the servants, 
and even from the bravoes, who kissed the hem of his gar- 



68 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ment, his rope, and his hood. At last he reached the street, 
borne along as in triumph, and accompanied by a crowd 
of people as far as the gate of the city, from whence he 
commenced his pedestrian journey towards the place of his 
novitiate. 

The brother and other relatives of the deceased, who 
had been prepared in the morning to enjoy the sad triumph 
of pride, were left instead full of the serene joy of a for- 
giving and benevolent disposition. The company entertained 
themselves some time longer, with feelings of unusual kind- 
ness and cordiality, in discussions of a very different char- 
acter to what they had anticipated on assembling. Instead 
of satisfaction enforced, insults avenged, and obligations 
discharged, praises of the novice, reconciliation, and meek- 
ness, were the topics of conversation. And he who, for 
the fiftieth time, v/ould have recounted how Count Muzio, 
his father, had served the Marquis Stanislao, (a violent, 
boastful man, as every one is aware,) in a well-known en- 
counter of the same kind, related, instead, the penitence 
and wonderful patience of one Friar Simone, who had 
died many years before. When the party had dispersed, 
the Signor, still considerably agitated, reconsidered with 
surprise what he had heard and had himself expressed, and 
muttered between his teeth, * The devil of a friar ! ' (we 
must record his exact words) * The devil of a friar ! — 
if he had knelt there a few moments longer, I should 
almost have begged his pardon for his having murdered 
my brother.' — Our story expressly notes that from that day 
forward he became a little less impetuous, and rather more 
tractable. 

Father Cristoforo pursued his way with a peace of mind 
such as he had never experienced since that terrible event, 
to make atonement for which his whole life was henceforth 
to be consecrated. He maintained the silence usually im- 
posed upon novices without difficulty, being entirely 
absorbed in the thought of the labours, privations, and 
humiliations he would have to undergo for the expiation 
of his fault. At the usual hour of refreshment, he 
stopped at the house of a patron, and partook almost 
voraciously of the bread of forgiveness, reserving, how^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 69 

ever, a small piece, which he kept in his basket as a perpetual 
remembrancer. 

It is not our intention to write the history of his cloistral 
life: it will suffice to say, that while he willingly and 
carefully fulfilled the duties customarily assigned to 
him, to preach and to attend upon the dying, he never suf- 
fered an opportunity to pass of executing two other offices 
which he had imposed upon himself — the composing of 
differences, and the protection of the oppressed. Without 
being aware of it, he entered upon these undertakings with 
some portion of his former zeal, and a slight remnant of that 
courageous spirit which humiliation and mortifications had 
not been able entirely to subdue. His m.anner of speaking 
was habitually meek and humble; but when truth and justice 
were at stake, he was immediately anim.ated with his former 
warmth, which, mingled with and modified by a solemn em- 
phasis acquired in preaching, imparted to his language a 
very marked character. His whole countenance and deport- 
ment indicated a long-continued struggle between a naturally 
hasty, passionate temper, and an opposing and habitually 
victorious will, ever on the watch, and directed by the highest 
principles and motives. One of the brotherhood, his friend, 
who knew him well, likened him, on one occasion, to those 
too-expressive words — too expressive, that is, in their nat- 
ural state, which some persons, well-behaved enough on 
ordinary occasions, pronounce, when overcome by anger, in 
a half-and-half sort of way, with a slight change of letters — ■ 
words which even thus transformed bear about them much 
of their primitive energVo 

If one unknown to him, in Lucia's sad condition, had 
implored the aid of Father Cristoforo, he would immedi- 
ately have attended to the request ; when it concerned Lucia, 
however, he hastened to her with double solicitude, since 
he knew and admired her innocence. He had already trem- 
bled for her danger, and felt a lively indignation at the base 
persecution of which she was the object Besides this, 
he feared that by advising her to say nothing about it, and 
keep quiet, he might have been the cause of some sad 
consequences; so that in this case there was added 
to the kind solicitude, w^hich was, as it v/ere, natural 



70 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to him, that scrupulous perplexity which often torments the 
innocent. 

But while we have been relating the early history o£ 
Father Cristoforo, he has arrived at the village, and reached 
the door ; and the women, leaving the harsh-toned spinning- 
wheel at which they were engaged, have risen and exclaimed 
with one voice, *' Oh^ Father Cristoforo.l God reward youl* 



\ 




CHAPTER -^ 

ATHER CRISTOFORO stopped, on the threshold 
and quickly perceived, by a glance at the women, 
that his presentiments had not been unfounded. 
While raising his beard, by a slight movem.ent of the head 
backwards, he said, in that interrogative tone which antic- 
ipates a mournful reply, * Well ? ' Lucia ansv/ered by a 
flood of tearSo Her mother began to apologize for having 
dared . . . but he advanced and seated himself on a three- 
legged stool, and cut short all her excuses, by saying to 
Lucia, ' Calm yourself, my poor daughter. And you,' con- 
tinued he, turning to Agnese, *tell me what has happened.' 
The good w'oman related the melancholy story as well as 
she could, while the friar changed colour a thousand times, 
at one moment raising his eyes to heaven, the next, kicking 
his heels on the ground. At the conclusion of the recital, 
he covered his face with his hands, and exclaimed, * Oh, 
blessed Lord ! how long ! , . .' But, without finishing the 
sentence, he turned again to the women. * Poor things ! ' 
said he, *' God has indeed visited you. Poor Lucia ! ' 

* You will not forsake us. Father ? ' sobbed Lucia. 

* Forsake you ! ' replied he. * Great God ! with v/hat face 
could I again make request to Him, if I should forsake 
you ? You in this state ! You whom He confides to me ! 
Don't despair: He will help you. He sees all: He can 
make use even of such an imworthy instrument as I am 
to confound a . , . Let us see : let me think what I can do 
for you.' 

So saying, he leaned his left elbow on his knee, laid his 
forehead on his hand, and v/ith the right grasped his beard 
and chin, as if to concentrate and hold fast all the powers 
of his mind. 

But the m^ost attentive consideration only served to show 
more distinctly the urgency and intricacy of the case, 
and how few, how uncertain, and how dangerous were the 
ways of meeting it. * Instil shame into Don Abbondio, and 

71 



72 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

make him sensible of how much he is failing in his duty? 
Shame and duty are nothing to him, when overwhelmed 
with fear. Inspire him with fears? How can I suggest 
one that would overbalance the dread he already has of a 
musket? Inform the Cardinal- Archbishop of all, and in- 
voke his authority? This requires time, and in the mean 
while what might not happen? And afterwards, supposing 
even this unhappy innocent were married, would that be a 
curb to such a man? . . . Who knows to what length 
he might proceed? And resist him? How? Ah ! if I could,' 
thought the poor friar : * if I could but engage in this cause 
my brethren here and at Milan ! But it is not a common 
affair, and I should be abandoned. Don Rodrigo pretends 
to be a friend to the convent, and professes himself a 
favourer of the Capuchins ; and his followers have more than 
once taken refuge with us. I should find myself alone in 
the undertaking; I should be opposed by meddling, quarrel- 
some persons; and, what is worse, I should, perhaps, by 
an ill-timed endeavour, only render the condition of this 
poor girl more hopeless.' Having considered every view 
of the question, the best course seemed to be to confront 
Don Rodrigo himself, and try, by entreaties, the terrors 
of the life to come, and even of this world, if that were 
possible, to dissuade him from his infamous purpose. 
At least, he could by this means ascertain whether he 
continued obstinately bent on his wicked design, discover 
something more of his intentions, and act accordingly. While 
the friar was thus engaged, Renzo, who for reasons that 
every one can divine, could not long absent himself, made 
his appearance at the door; but seeing the Father absorbed 
in thought, and the women beckoning to him not to inter- 
rupt him, he stood silent on the threshold. Raising his head 
to communicate his design to the women, the friar per- 
ceived Renzo, and saluted him with his usual affection, in- 
creased and rendered more intense by compassion. 

* Have they told you . . . Father ? ' asked Renzo, in 
an agitated tone. 

* Only too much : and for that reason I am here.' 
*What do you say to the rascal?' 

*What do you wish me to say of him? He is far away, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 73 

and my words would be of no use. But I say to you, 
my Renzo, trust in God, and He will not forsake you/ 

* V/Iiat blessed words ! ' exclaimed the youth. 'You are 
not one of those who always wrong the poor. But the 
Signer Curate, and that Signor Doctor . . .' 

* Don't recall those scenes, Renzo, which only serve to 
irritate you uselessly. I am a poor friar; but I repeat what 
I have said to these poor women: poor as I am, I will not 
forsake you.' 

* Ah ! you are not like the world's friends ! Good-for- 
nothing creatures that they are! You would not believe 
the protestations they made me in prosperity. Ha ! ha ! 
They were ready to give their lives for me; they would 
have defended me against the devil. If I had had an enemy 
... I had only to let them know it, and I should have 
been quickly rid of him ! And now, if you were to see how 
they draw back . . .' At this moment Renzo perceived, 
on raising his eyes to those of his auditor, that the good 
friar's face was clouded, and he felt that he had uttered 
something wrong. He only added to his perplexities, how- 
ever, and made matters worse, by trying to remedy them: 
* I meant to say . . » I don't at all mean . . . that is, I 
meant to say . . .' 

' What did you mean to say ? Have you, then, begun to 
spoil my work before I have undertaken it? It is well for 
3jjDu that you have been undeceived in time. What ! you 
went in search of friends. . . and such friends! . . . 
who could not have helped you, had they been willing; and 
you forgot to seek the only One who can and will assist 
you ! Do you not know that God is the friend of the af- 
flicted who put their trust in Him? Do you not know that 
threatening and contention gain nothing for the weak? 
And even if . . .' Here he forcibly grasped Renzo's arm: 
his countenance, without losing any of its authority, ex- 
pressed a solemn contrition; he cast his eyes on the ground, 
and his voice became slow and almost sepulchral : ' Even if 
they did, it is a terrible gain ! Renzo ! will you trust to me ? 
To me, did I say — a feeble mortal, a poor friar? No; 
but will you trust in God ? ' 

*0h yes!' replied Renzo; *He is in truth the Lord.' 



74 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* Very well ; promise me that you will not attack — 
that you will not provoke— any one; that you will be 
guided hy me/ 

*I promise you/ 

Lucia drew a long breath, as if she were relieved from 
SI great weight ; and Agnese exclaimed, ' Bravo, my son I ' 

* Listen, my children,' continued Friar Cristoforo ; ' I will 
go to-day and speak to this man. If it please God to touch 
his heart, and give force to my v/ords, well; but, if notj 
He will show us some other rem.edy. You, in the m_ean 
while, be quiet and retired; avoid gossip, and don't show 
yourselves. To-night, or to-morrov/ m^orning, at the latest, 
you shall see me again^' So saying, he cut short all their 
thanks and benedictions, and departed. He returned first 
to the convent, where he arrived in time to join the chorus 
in chanting, dined, and then set off on his way towards the 
den of the wild beast he had undertaken to tame. 

The small but elegant palace of Don Rodrigo stood 
by itself, rising like a castle from the summit of one of the 
abrupt cliffs by v/hicli the shore of the lake was broken and 
diversifiedo Our anonymous author only adds to this in- 
dication, that the site (it would have been better to have 
given the name in full) was rather on the side adjoining the 
country of the Betrothed, about three miles distant from 
them, and four from the convent. At the base of the cliff, 
on the side looking towards the lake, lay a group of cot- 
tages, inhabited hy the peasantry in the service of Don Rod- 
rigo, the diminutive capital of his little kingdom. It v/as 
quite sufficient to pass through it to be assured of the char- 
acter and custom^s of the country. Casting a glance into 
the lower rooms, should a door happen to be open, one 
saw hanging on the wall, fowling-pieces, spades, rakes, straw 
hats, nets, and povv^der-flasks, in admired confusion. Every- 
where might be seen powerful, fierce-looking men, wearing 
a large lock, turned back upon their head, and enclosed in 
a net; old men, who, having lost their teeth, appeared ready, 
at the slightest provocation, to show their gums ; women, of 
masculine appearance, with strong, sinewy arms, prepared 
to come in to the aid of their tongues on every occasion. 
Even the very children, playing in the road, displayed in 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 75 

their countenances and behaviour a certain air of provo- 
cation and defiance. 

Father Cristoforo passed through this hamlet, and ascended 
a winding foot-path to a small level plot of ground, in front 
of the palace. The door was shut — a sign that the master 
of the mansion was dining, and would not be disturbed. The 
few small windows that looked into the road, the frame- 
works of which were disjointed, and decayed with age, were 
defended by large iron bars; and those of the ground-floor 
were so high, that a man could scarcely reach them by stand- 
ing on the shoulders of another. Perfect silence reigned 
around; and a passer-by might have deemed it a deserted 
mansion, had not four creatures, two animate, and two in- 
animate, disposed opposite each other, outside, given some 
indication of inhabitants. Two great vultures, with extended 
wings and pendent heads — one stripped of its feathers, and 
half consumed by time; the other still feathered, and in a 
state of preservation, were nailed, one on each post of the 
massive door-way; and two bravoes, stretched at full length 
on the benches to the right and left, were on guard, and 
expecting their call to partake of the rem.ains of the Signer's 
table. The Father stood still, in the attitude of one who 
was prepared to wait; but one of the bravoes rose, and 
called to him : * Father, Father, come forward, we don't make 
Capuchins wait here; we are friends of the convent; and 
I have sometimes been within it when the air outside was 
not very good for me, and when, if the door had been closed 
upon me, I should have fared badly.' So saying, he gave 
two strokes of the knocker, which were answered immedi- 
ately from within, by the howling and yelling of mastiffs, 
and curs, and in a few moments by an old grumbling servant ; 
but seeing the Father, he made him a low bow, quieted the 
animals with hand and voice, introduced the visitor into a 
narrow passage, and closed the door again. He then con- 
ducted him into a small apartment, and, regarding him with 
a surprised and respectful look, said, *Are you not , « . 
Father Cristoforo of Pescarenico ? ' 

* I am.' 

* You here?' 

' As you see, my good man.* 



76 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

*It must be to do good, then. Good/ continued he, mut- 
tering between his teeth, as he still led the way ; * good may- 
be done anywhere.' 

Having passed through two or three dark apartments, they 
at last reached the door of the dining-room, where they were 
greeted with a loud and confused noise of knives, forks, 
glasses, pewter dishes, and, above all, of discordant voices 
alternately endeavouring to take the lead in conversation. 
The friar wished to withdraw, and was debating at the door 
with the servant, and begging permission to wait in some 
corner of the house till dinner was over, when the door 
opened. A certain Count Attilio, who v/as sitting opposite, 
(he was a cousin of Don Rodrigo, and we have already 
mentioned him without giving his name,) seeing a shaved 
head and monk's habit, and perceiving the modest inten- 
tions of the good friar, exclaimed, * Aha ! aha ! You sha'n't 
make your escape, reverend Father ; forward, forward ! ' 
Don Rodrigo, without precisely divining the object of this 
visit, had a sort of presentiment of what awaited him, and 
would have been glad to avoid it; but since Attilio had 
thoughtlessly given this blunt invitation, he was obliged to 
second it, and said, ' Come in. Father, come in.' The friar 
advanced, making a low bow to the host, and respectfully 
responded to the salutations of the guests. 

It is usual (I do not say invariable) to represent the inno- 
cent in the presence of the wicked with an open countenance, 
an air of security, an undaunted heart, and a ready facility 
of expression. In reality, however, many circumstances are 
required to produce this behaviour, which are rarely met 
with in combination. It will not, therefore, be wondered at, 
that Friar Cristoforo, with the testimony of a good con- 
science, and a firm persuasion of the justice of the cause 
he had come to advocate, together with a mingled feeling 
of horror and compassion for Don Rodrigo, stood, never- 
theless, with a certain air of timidity and submissiveness, 
in the presence of this same Don Rodrigo, who was seated 
before him in an arm-chair, in his own house, on his own 
estate, surrounded by his friends, and many indications of 
his power, with every homage paid to him, and with an 
expression of countenance that would at once prohibit the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 77 

making of a request, much more the giving advice, correc- 
tion, or reproof. On his right, sat Count AttiHo, his cousin, 
and, it is needless to say, his companion in libertinism and 
oppression, who had come from Milan to spend a few days 
with him. To his left, and on the other side of the table, 
was seated, with a profound respect, tempered, however, 
with a certain air of security, and even arrogance, the Signor 
Podesta;^ the person whose business it was, professedly, to 
administer justice to Renzo Tramaglino, and inflict upon 
Don Rodrigo one of the appointed penalties. Opposite the 
Podesta, in an attitude of the purest, most unbounded ser- 
vility, sat our Doctor, Aszecca-Garhugli, with his black cap, 
and more than usually red nose; and facing the cousins 
were two obscure guests, of whom our story merely records 
that they did nothing but eat, bow their heads, and smile 
approval at everything uttered by a fellow-guest, provided 
another did not contradict it. 

* Give the Father a seat,* said Don Rodrigo. A servant pre- 
sented a chair, and Father Cristoforo sat down, making some 
excuse to the Signor for coming at so inopportune an hour. 

' I wish to speak with you alone, on a matter of im- 
portance,' added the friar, in a lower voice, in Don Rod- 
rigo's ear. 

* Very well, I will attend you,' replied he ; * but in the 
mean while, bring the Father something to drink.' 

The Father tried to excuse himself; but Don Rodrigo, 
raising his voice above the re-commencing tumult, cried, 
' No, no, you shall not do me this wrong ; it shall never be 
said that a Capuchin left this house without tasting my wine, 
nor an insolent creditor the wood of my forests.' These 
words were followed by a general laugh, and, for a moment, 
interrupted the question that was being warmly agitated 
among the guests. A servant then brought in a bottle of 
wine, on a tray, and a tall glass, in the shape of a chalice, 
and presented them to the Father, who, unwilling to refuse 
the pressing invitation of one he so much wished to propi- 
tiate, did not hesitate to pour some out, and began slowly 
to sip the wine. 

iThe governor, or magistrate of the place— a dignitary corresponding to 
the mayor of an Enghsh town; but less dignified in this instance, because 
exercising power in a smaller territory. 



78 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

*The authority of Tasso will not serve your purpose, 
respected Signer Podesta; it even militates against you/ 
resumed Count Attilio, in a thundering voice ; ^ for that 
learned, that great man, who perfectly understood all the 
rules of chivalry, has made the messenger of Argante ask 
leave of the pious Buglione, before delivering the challenge 
to the Christian knights » . .' 

' But this,^ replied the Podesta, vociferating no less vehe- 
mently, ' this IS a liberty, a mere liberty, a poetical ornament ; 
since an ambassador is, in his nature, inviolable by the law 
of nations, jure gentium. But, without seeking so far, the 
proverb says, Amhasciator non porta pena; and proverbs, 
you know, contain the wisdom of the human race. Besides, 
the messenger having uttered nothing in his own name, but 
only presented the challenge in writing . . / 

* But when will you understand that this messenger was 
an inconsiderate ass, v/ho didn't know the first? . . «' 

* With your leave, gentlemen,* interrupted Don Rodrigo, 
who was afraid of the question being carried too far, 
*we will refer it to Father Cristoforo, and abide by his 
sentence/ 

' Well — very well/ said Count Attilio, highly pleased at 
the idea of referring a question of chivalry to a Capuchin: 
while the more eager Podesta with difficulty restrained his 
excited feelings, and a shrug of contempt, which seemed to 
say' — Absurdity ! 

* But, from v\diat I have heard/ said the Father, * these are 
matters I know nothing of/ 

' As usual, the modest excuses of the Fathers/ said Don 
Rodrigo; *but you shall not get off so easily. Come, now, 
we know well enough you did not come into the world with 
a cowl on your head, and that you are no stranger to its 
ways. See here; this is the question . . / 

' The case is this,' began Count Attilio. 

* Let me tell it, who am neutral, cousin,' replied Don Rod- 
rigo. ^ This is the story. A Spanish cavalier sent a chal- 
lenge to a Milanese cavalier; the bearer, not finding him 
at home, delivered the summons to his brother, who, after 
reading it, gave the bearer in reply a good thrashing. The 

)Ute is . , ,.* 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 79 

*One good turn deserves another,' cried Count Attilio. 
* It was really inspiration . . .' 

* Of the devil/ added the Podesta, ' To beat an ambassa- 
dor ! — a man whose person is sacred ! Even you, Father, 
mil say whether this v»^as a knightly deed.' 

' Yes, Signor, knightly,' cried the Count, * and you will 
allow me to say so, who ought to understand what relates to 
a cavalier. Oh, if they had been blows, it would be another 
matter; but a cudgel defiles nobody's hands. V/hat puzzles 
m.e is, why you think so much of the shoulders of a mean 
scoundrel.' 

* Who said anything about his shoulders, Signor Count? 
You would make out I had talked nonsense such as never 
entered my mind. I spoke of his office, not of his shoulders ; 
and am now considering the laws of chivalry. Be so good 
as to tell me whether the heralds that the ancient Romans 
sent to bid defiance to other nations asked leave to announce 
their message; and fi.nd me one writer who mentions that 
a herald was ever beaten.' 

* What have the officers of the ancient Romans to do with 
us — a simple nation, and in these things far, far behind us? 
But, according to the laws of modern chivalry, which are 
the only right ones, I affirm and maintain that a messenger 
who dared to place a challenge in the hand of a knight with- 
out having asked his permission, is an incautious fool, who 
may be beaten, and who richly deserves it.' 

* Answer me this syllogism , , .' 

* No, no, nothing.' 

* But listen, listen. To strike an unarmed person is a 
treacherous act. At qui the messenger de quo was without 
arms. Ergo . , .' 

* Gently, gently, Signor Podesta.' 
'Why gently?' 

'Gently, I say: what are you talking about? It is an act" 
of treachery to give a man a blow v/ith a sword behind 
him, or to shoot him in the back; and to this even there 
are certain exceptions . . . but we v\^ill keep to the point. 
I allow that this may generally be called an act of treachery; 
but to bestow four blows on a paltry fellow like him ! It 
would have been a likely thing to say: Take care I don't 



80 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

beat you, as one says to a gentleman: Draw your sword. 
And you, respected Signor Doctor, instead of smiling at me 
there, and giving me to understand you are of my opinion, 
why don't you support my position with your capital powers 
of argument, and help me to drive some reason into the head 
of this Signor ? ' 

* I . . .' replied the Doctor, in confusion. * I enjoy this 
learned dispute, and am glad of the accident that has given 
occasion to so agreeable a war of genius. But it does not 
belong to me to give sentence: his illustrious lordship has 
already delegated a judge . . . the Father here , . .' 

* True,' said Don Rodrigo; 'but how is the judge to speak 
when the disputants will not be silent ? ' 

* I am dumb,' said Count Attilio. The Podesta made a sign 
that he would not speak. 

' Ah, at last ! What do you say, Father ? ' asked Don 
Rodrigo with half-jesting gravity., 

'I have already excused myself by saying I don't under- 
stand the matter,' replied Friar Cristoforo, returning the 
wine-glass to a servant. 

* Poor excuses,' cried the two cousins. ' We must have 
your sentence.' 

' Since you wish it, my humble opinion is that there should 
be neither challenges, bearers, nor blows.' 

The guests interchanged looks of unfeigned astonishment. 

* Oh, this is too bad ! ' exclaimed Count Attilio. * Pardon 
me. Father, but this is too bad. It is easy to see you know 
nothing of the world.' 

* He ? ' said Don Rodrigo. * Ha ! ha ! he knows it, cousin, 
as well as you do : isn't it true. Father ? ' 

Instead of replying to this courteous interrogation, the 
Father said to himself: — This is aimed at you; but remem- 
ber, friar, that you are not here for yourself ; and that which 
affects you only is not to be taken into the account. 

* It may be/ said the cousin ; ' but the Father . , . what is 
his name ? ' 

^ Father Cristoforo,' replied more than one. 

* But, Father Cristoforo, most reverend Father, with your 
principles you would turn the world upside down. Without 
challenges! Without blows! Farewell to the point o£ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 81 

honour; impunity for all villains. Fortunately, however, the 
supposition is impossible.' 

* Up, Doctor, up,' broke in Don Rodrigo, who always tried 
to divert the argument from the original disputants. ' You 
are the man to argue on any matter. Let us see what you 
will do in discussing this question with Father Cristoforo.' 

* Really,' replied the Doctor, brandishing his fork in the 
air, and turning to the Father, * really I cannot understand 
how Father Cristoforo, who is at once the perfect devotee 
and a man of the world, should not remember that his sen- 
tence, good, excellent, and of just weight, as it is in the 
pulpit, is of no value (with due respect be it spoken) in a 
question of chivalry. But the Father knows, better than 
I, that everything is good in its place; and I think that this 
time he has only endeavoured the escape by a jest from the 
difficulty of giving sentence.' 

What can one reply to reasonings deduced from a wisdom. 
so ancient, yet so new ? Nothing ; and so thought our friar. 

But Don Rodrigo, wishing to cut short this dispute, pro- 
ceeded to suggest another. * Apropos,' said he ; ' I hear there 
are rumours of an accommodation at Milan.' 

The reader must know that, at this time, there was a con- 
test for the succession to the Duchy of Mantua, which, on 
the death of Vincenzo Gonzaga, who left no male issue, 
had fallen into the possession of the Duke of Nevers, 
Gonzaga's nearest relation. Louis XIIL, or rather Car^ 
dinal Richelieu, wished to support him on account of his 
being well-disposed toward the French. Philip IV., or rather 
the Count D'Olivares, commonly called the Count Duke, 
opposed him for the same reason, and had declared war 
against him. As the Duchy was a fief of the empire, the 
two parties made interest, by intrigue, threats, and solicita- 
tions, at the court of the Emperor Ferdinand II. ; the former 
urging him to grant the investiture to the new Duke, the 
latter to refuse it, and even assist in banishing him from the 
State. 

* I am inclined to think,' said Count Attilio, ' that matters 
may be adjusted. I have certain reasons . . .' 

* Don't believe it, Signor Count, don't believe it,' inter- 
rupted the Podesta ; ' even in this corner of the world I have 



82 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

means of ascertaining the state of things; for the Spanish 
governor of the castle, who condescends to make me his 
friend, and who being the son of one of the Count Duke's 
dependents, is informed of everything. . * / 

'I tell you, I have opportunity every day at Milan ol 
talking with great men ; and I know, on good authority, that 
the Pope is highly interested in the restoration of peace, and 
has made propositions . . / 

' So it ought to be, the thing is according to rule, and his 
Holiness does his duty; a Pope ought always to mediate be- 
tween Christian Princes; but the Count Duke has his own 
policy, and . . ,' 

* And, and, and — do you know, m}^ good Signor, what the 
Emperor thinks of it at this moment? Do you think there is 
no other place in the world besides Mantua? There are 
many things to be looked after, my good Signor. Do 3''0U 
know, for exam^ple, how far the Emperor can, at this moment, 
confide in that Prince Valdistano, or Vallestai, or whatever 
they call him ; and whether . . / 

' His right name in German,' again interrupted the Podesta 
* is Vagliensteino, as I have often heard it pronounced by our 
Spanish Signor, the governor of the castle. But be of good 
courage, for . . / 

* Will you teach me ? ' exclaimed the Count, angrily ; but 
Don Rodrigo motioned to him with his knee, for his sake, 
to cease contradiction. He therefore remained silent; and 
the Podesta, like a vessel disengaged from a sand-bank, 
continued, with wide-spread sails, the course of his elo- 
quence. ' Vagliensteino gives me little concern, because the 
Count Duke has his eyes on everything, and in every place; 
and if Vagliensteino chooses to play any tricks, he will set 
him right with fair words or foul. He has his eye every- 
where, I say, and long arms; and if he has resolved, as he 
justly has, like a good politician, that the Signor Duke of 
Nevers shall not take root in Mantua, the Signor Duke of 
Nevers will not take root there, and the Cardinal Richelieu 
will sink in the water. It makes me smile to see this 
worthy Signor Cardinal contending with a Count Duke — 
with an Olivares. I should like to rise again, after a lapse 
of two hundred years, to hear what posterity will say of thes^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 83 

£ne pretensions. It requires something more than envy: 
there must be a head; and of heads like that of a Count Duke 
there is but one in the world. The Count Duke, my good 
Signors/ continued the Podesta, sailing before the wind, and 
a little surprised at not encountering one shoal, ' the Count 
Duke is an aged fox, (speaking with all respect,) who can 
make anybody lose his track; when he aims at the right, we 
may be sure he will take the left ; so that no one can boast of 
knowing his intentions; and even they who execute them, 
and they who write his despatches, understand nothing of 
them. I can speak with some knowledge of the circum- 
stances; for that worthy man, the Governor of the Castle, 
deigns to place some confidence in me. The Count Duke, 
on the other hand, knows exactly what is going forward in 
all the other Courts, and their great politicians — many of 
whom, it cannot be denied, are very upright men — have 
scarcely imagined a design before the Count Duke has dis- 
covered it, with that clever head of his, his underhand ways, 
and his nets everywhere spread. That poor man, the Cardinal 
Richelieu, makes an attempt here, busies himself there; he 
toils, he strives; and what for? When he has succeeded in 
digging a mine, he finds a countermine already completed by 
the Count Duke . . J 

No one knows when the Podesta would have come ashore, 
had not Don Rodrigo, urged by the suggestions of his cousin, 
ordered a servant to bring him a certain bottle of v/ine. 

* Signor Podesta,' said he, * and gentlemen ; a toast to the 
Count Duke; and you will then tell me whether the wine is 
worthy of the person.' The Podesta replied by a bow, in 
which might be discerned an expression of particular ac- 
knowledgment ; for all that v/as said or done in honour of the 
Duke, he received, in part, as done to himself, 

* Long live Don Gasparo Guzman, Count of Olivares, Duke 
of San Lucar, grand Private of the King, Don Philip the 
Great, our Sovereign ! ' exclaimed Don Rodrigo, raising his 
glass. 

Private (for the information of those who know it not) 
was the title used in those days to signify the favourite of a 
prince. 

' Long live the Count ! ' replied all. 



84 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

' Help the Father/ said Don Rodrigo. 

* Excuse me,' replied the Father ; ' but I have already been 
guilty of a breach of discipline, and I cannot . . .' 

* What ! ' said Don Rodrigo ; * it is a toast to the Count Duke. 
Will you make us believe that you hold with the Navarrines ? ' 

Thus they contemptuously styled the French Princes of 
Navarre, who had begun to reign over them in the time of 
Henry IV. 

On such an adjuration, he was obliged to taste the wine. 
All the guests broke out in exclamations and encomiums 
upon it, except the Doctor, who, by the gesture of his head, 
the glance of his eyes, and the compression of his lips, ex- 
pressed much more than he could have done by words. 

* What do you say of it, eh. Doctor ? ' asked Don Rodrigo. 
Withdrawing from the wine-glass a nose more ruddy and 

bright than itself, the Doctor replied, with marked emphasis 
upon every syllable : ' I say, pronounce, and affirm that this 
is the Olivares of wines ; censui, et in earn ivi sententiam, that 
its equal cannot be found in the twenty-two kingdoms of the 
King, our Sovereign, whom God defend! I declare and 
determine that the dinners of the most noble Signor Don 
Rodrigo excel the suppers of Heliogabalus, and that famine 
is perpetually banished and excluded from this place, where 
splendour reigns and has its abode.' 

' Well said ! well defined ! ' cried the guests, with one voice ; 
but the word famine, which he had uttered by chance, at 
once directed the minds of all to this mournful subject, and 
every one spoke of the famine. In this matter they were 
all agreed, at least on the main point; but the uproar was 
greater, perhaps, than if there had been a diversity of opin- 
ion. All spoke at once. ' There is no famine,' said one ; * it 
is the monopolists . . .' 

'And the bakers,' said another, * who hide the grain. Hang 
them, say I.' 

* Yes, yes, hang them without mercy.' 
' Upon fair trial,' cried the Podesta. 

* Trial ? ' cried Count Attilio, more loudly. * Summary 
justice, I say. Take three or four, or five or six,. of those 
who are acknowledged by the common voice to be the richest 
and most avaricious, ah^ hang them.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 85 

* Examples ! examples ! — without examples, nothing can be 
done.' 

* Hang them ! hang them ! and grain will flow out in abun- 
dance.' 

Whoever, in passing through a fair, has had the pleasure 
of hearing the harmony produced by a party of fiddlers, when, 
between one air and another, each one tunes his instrument, 
making it sound as loud as possible, that he may the more 
distinctly hear it in the midst of, and above, the surrounding 
uproar, may imagine what would be the harmony of these 
(if one may so say) discourses.' The party continued pour- 
ing out and drinking the wine, while the praises of it were 
mingled, as was but just, with sentences of economical juris- 
prudence; so that the loudest, and most frequently heard, 
words were — nectar, and hang them. 

Don Rodrigo, in the mean while, glanced from time to time 
towards the friar, and always saw him in the same station, 
giving no signs of impatience or hurry, without a movement 
tending to remind him that he was waiting his leisure, but 
with the air of one who was determined not to depart till he 
had had a hearing. He would gladly have sent him away, 
and escaped the interview; but to dismiss a Capuchin with- 
out having given him audience, was not according to the 
rules of his policy. However, since the annoying duty could 
not be avoided, he resolved to discharge it at once, and free 
himself from the obligation. He therefore rose from the 
table, and with him all the excited party, without ceasing 
their clamour. Having asked leave of his guests, he ad- 
vanced in a haughty manner towards the friar, who had im- 
mediately risen with the rest; and saying to him, 'At your 
command, Father,' conducted him into another apartment 




CHAPTER VI 

'OW can I obey you ? ' said Don Rodrigo, standing in 
the middle of the room. His words were these ; but 
the tone in which they were pronounced, clearly 
meant to say, remember before whom you are standing, take 
heed to your words, and be expeditious. 

There was no surer or quicker way of inspiring Friar 
Cristoforo with courage, than to address him with haughti- 
ness. He had stood waveringly, and at a loss for words, 
passing through his fingers the beads of the rosary that 
hung at his girdle, as if he hoped to find in some of them an 
introduction to his speech; but at this behaviour of Don 
Rodrigo's, there instantly rose to his mind more to say 
than he had want of. Immediately, however, recollecting 
how important it was not to spoil his work, or, what was far 
iworse, the work he had undertaken for others, he corrected 
and tempered the language that had presented itself to his 
mind, and said, with cautious humility ; * I come to propose 
to you an act of justice, to supplicate a deed of mercy. 
Some men of bad character have made use of the name of 
your illustrious lordship, to alarm a poor curate, and dissuade 
him from performing his duty, and to oppress two innocent 
persons. You can confound them by a word, restore all 
to order, and relieve those who are so shamefully wronged. 
You are able to do it; and being able . . , conscience, hon- 
our . . „' 

* You will be good enough to talk of my conscience when 
I ask your advice about it. As to my honour, I beg to inform 
you, I am the guardian of it, and I only; and that whoever 
dares intrude himself to share the guardianship with me, I 
regard as a rash man, who offends against it.' 

Friar Cristoforo, perceiving from these words that the 
Signor sought to put a wrong construction on all he said, and 
to turn the discourse into a dispute, so as to prevent his 
coming to the main point, bound himself still more rigidly to 
be patient, and to swallow every insult he might please to 

S6 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 87 

offer. He therefore replied, in a subdued tone, * If I have 
said anything to offend you, I certainly did not intend it. 
Correct me^ reprove me, if I do not speak becomingly, but 
deign to listen to me. For Heaven's sake — for the sake of 
that God in whose presence we must all appear » . .' and in 
saying this, he took between his hands the little cross of wood 
appended to his rosary, and held it up before the eyes of his 
frowning auditor; * be not obstinately resolved to refuse an 
act of justice so easy and so due to the poor. Remember that 
God's eye is ever over them', and that their imprecations are 
heard above. Innocence is powerful in His . . / 

' Aha ! father ! * sharply interrupted Don Rodrigo : ' the 
respect I bear to your habit is great; but if anything could 
make me forget it^ it would be to see it on one who dares to 
come as a spy into my house/ 

These words brought a crimson glow upon the cheeks of 
the friar; but with the countenance of one who swallows a 
very bitter medicine, he replied, * You do not think I deserve 
such a title. You feel in your heart that the act I am now 
performing is neither wicked nor contemptible. Listen to me, 
Signor Don Rodrigo ; and Heaven grant a day may not coma 
in which you will have to repent of not having listened to 
me ! I will not lessen your honour. — What honour, Signor 
Don Rodrigo ! what honour in the sight of men ! what honour 
in the sight of God ! You have much in your power, but . . .* 

' Don't you know,' said Don Rodrigo, interrupting him in 
an agitated tone, the m.ingled effect of anger and rem^orse, 
' don't you know that when the fancy takes me io hear a 
sermon, I can go to church like other people? But in my 
own house ! Oh ! ' continued he, with a forced smile of mock- 
ery: 'You treat me as though I were of higher rank than 
I am. It is only princes who have a preacher in their own 
houses.' 

* And that God who requires princes to render an account 
of the v/ord preached to them in their palaces, that God 
who now bestows upon you a token of His mercy, by sending 
His minister, though indeed a poor and unworthy one, to 
intercede for an innocent . , / 

'In short, father,' said Don Rodrigo, preparing to go, ^I 
don't know what you mean: I can only suppose there must 



88 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

be some young girl you are concerned about. Make con- 
fidants of whom you please, but don't have the assurance 
to annoy a gentleman any longer.' 

On the movement of Don Rodrigo, the friar also advanced, 
reverently placed himself in his way, raised his hands, both 
in an attitude of supplication, and also to detain him, and 
again replied, ' I am concerned for her, it is true, but not 
more than for yourself: there are two persons who concern 
me more than my own life. Don Rodrigo ! I can only pray 
for you ; but this I will do with my whole heart. Do not say 
" no " to me ; do not keep a poor innocent in anguish and 
terror. One word from you will do all.' 

' Well,' said Don Rodrigo, * since you seem to think I can 
do so much for this person ; since you are so much interested 
for her „ . / 

* Well ? ' said Father Cristof oro, anxiously, while the be- 
haviour and countenance of Don Rodrigo forbade his indulg- 
ing in the hope which the words appeared to warrant. 

' Well ; advise her to com-e and put herself under my pro- 
tection. She shall want for nothing, and no one shall dare 
molest her, as I am a gentleman.' 

At such a proposal, the indignation of the friar, hitherto 
with difficulty confined within bounds, burst forth without 
restraint. All his good resolutions of prudence and patience 
forsook him, the old nature usurped the place of the new; 
and in these cases Father Cristoforo was indeed like two 
different men. 

* Your protection ! ' exclaimed he, retiring a step or two, 
and fiercely resting on his right foot, his right hand placed 
on his hip, his left held up, pointing with his fore-finger 
towards Don Rodrigo, and two fiery-glancing eyes piercingly 
fixed upon him: 'your protection! Woe be to you that 
have thus spoken, that you have made me such a proposal. 
You have filled up the measure of your iniquity, and I no 
longer fear you.' 

* How are you speaking to me, friar ? ' 

* I speak as to one who is forsaken hy God, and who can 
no longer excite fear. I knew that this innocent was under 
God's protection; but you, you have now made me feel it 
with so much certainty, that I have no longer need to ask 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 89 

protection of you. Lticia, I say — see how I pronounce this 
name with a bold face and unmoved expression/ 
' What ! in this house ! ' 

* I pity this house ; a curse is suspended over it. You will 
see whether the justice of God can be resisted by four walls, 
and four bravoes at your gates. Thought you that God had 
made a creature in his image, to give you the delight of 
tormenting her? Thought you that He would not defend 
her? You have despised His counsel, and you will be judged 
for it ! The heart of Pharaoh was hardened, like yours, but 
God knew how to break it. Lucia is safe from you; I do 
not hesitate to say so, though a poor friar: and as to you, 
listen what I predict to you. A day will com.e . . .' 

Don Rodrigo had stood till now with a mingled feeling of 
rage and mute astonishment; but on hearing the beginning 
of this prediction, an undefined and mysterious fear was 
added to his anger. Hastily seizing the Father's outstretched 
arm, and raising his voice to drown that of the inauspicious 
prophet, he exclaimed, * Get out of my sight, rash villain — > 
cowled rascal ! ' 

These definite appellations calmed Father Cristoforo in a 
mom.ent. The idea of submission and silence had been so 
long associated in his mind with that of contempt and injury, 
that at this compliment every feeling of warmth and en- 
thusiasm instantly subsided, and he only resolved to listen 
patiently to whatever Don Rodrigo might be pleased to 
subjoin. 

Quietly, then, withdrawing his hand from the Signor's 
grasp, he stood motionless, with his head bent down- 
wards, as an aged tree, in the sudden lulling of an over- 
bearing storm, resumes its natural position, and receives on 
its drooping branches the hail as Heaven sends it. 

* Vile upstart ! ' continued Don Rodrigo ; ' you treat me 
like an equal: but thank the cassock that covers your cow- 
ardly shoulders for saving you from the caresses that such 
scoundrels as you should receive, to teach them how to 
talk to a gentleman. Depart with sound limbs for this once, 
or we shall see.' 

So saying, he pointed with imperious scorn to a door op- 
posite the one they had entered; and Father Cristoforo 



^^ ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

bowed his head and departed, leaving Don Rodrigo to 
measure, with excited steps, the field of battle. 

When the friar had closed the door behind him, he per- 
ceived some one in the apartment he had entered, stealing 
softly along the wall, that he might not be seen from the room 
of conference; and he instantly recognized the aged servant 
who had received him at the door on his arrival. This man 
had lived in the family for forty years, that is, since be- 
fore Don Rodrigo's birth, having been in the service of 
his father, who was a very different kind of man. On his 
death, the nev/ master dismissed all the household, and hired 
a fresh set of attendants, retaining, however, this one ser- 
vant, both because he was old, and because, although of a 
temper and habits widely different from his own, he made 
amends for this defect by two qualifications — a lofty idea of 
the dignity of the house, and long experience in its cere- 
monials; v/ith the most ancient traditions and minute par- 
ticulars of which he was better acquainted than any one 
else. In the presence of his master, the poor old man never 
ventured a sign, still less an expression, of his disapprobation 
of what he saw around him every day ; but at tim.es he could 
scarcely refrain from some exclam.ation — some reproof mur- 
mured between his lips to his fellow-servants. They, highly 
diverted at his remarks, would somictimes urge him to con- 
versation, provoking him to find fault with the present state 
of things, and to sound the praises of the ancient way of 
living in the family. His censures only came to his master's 
ears accompanied by a relation of the ridicule bestowed upon 
them^ so that they merely succeeded in making him an object 
of contempt without resentment. On days of ceremony and 
entertainment, however, the old man became a person of 
serious importance. 

Father Cristoioro looked at him as he passed, saluted him, 
and was about to go forward; but the old man approached 
with a mysterious air, put his fore-finger on his lips, and 
then beckoned to him, vnth the said fore-finger, to accom- 
pany him into a dark passage, where in an under tone, 
he said, ' Father, I have heard all and I want to speak 
to you.' 

' Speak up then, at once, my good man.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 91 

* Net here ! woe to us if the master saw us ! But I can 
learn much, and will try to come to-morrow to the convent.' 

*Is there some project?' 

* Something's in the wind, that's certain : I had already- 
suspected it; but now I will be on the watch, and will find 
out all. Leave it to me. I happen to see and hear things . . . 
strange things ! I am in a house ! . . , But I wish to save 
my soul.' 

' God bless you ! ' said the friar, softly pronouncing the 
benediction, as he laid his hand on the servant's head, who, 
though much older than himself, bent before him with the 
respect of a son. * God will reward you,' continued the friar : 
* don't fail to come to me to-morrow.' 

' I will be sure to come,' replied the servant ; * but do you 
go quickly, and . . . for Heaven's sake . . . don't betray 
me.' So saying, and looking cautiously around, he went out, 
at the other end of the passage, into a hall that led to the 
court-yard: and seeing the coast clear, beckoned to the good 
friar, whose face responded to the last injunction more 
plainly than any protestations could have done. The old man 
pointed to the door, and the friar departed without further 
delay. 

This servant had been listening at his master's door. Had 
he done right? And was Father Cristoforo right in prais- 
ing him for it ? According to the commonest and most gen- 
erally received rules, it was a very dishonest act; but might 
not this case be regarded as an exception ? And are there not 
exceptions to the most-generally-received rules? 

These are questions which we leave the reader to resolve 
at his pleasure. We do not pretend to give judgment: it is 
enough that we relate facts. 

Having reached the road, and turned his back upon this 
wild beast's den, Father Cristoforo breathed more freely, as 
he hastened down the descent, his face flushed, and his mind, 
as every one may imagine, agitated and confused by what he 
had recently heard and said. But the unexpected proffer of 
the old man had been a great relief to him; it seemed as if 
Heaven had given him a visible token of its protection. Here 
is a clue, thought he, that Providence has put into my hands. 
In this very house, too ! and without my even dreaming of 



92 ALESSANDRO MANZONI - ■ 

looking for one! Engaged in such thoughts, he raised his 
eyes towards the west, and seeing the setting sun already 
touching the summit of the mountain, was reminded that the 
day was fast drawing to a close. He therefore quickened 
his steps, though weary and weak, after the many annoyances 
of the day, that he might have time to carry back his intelli- 
gence, such as it was, to his proteges and arrive at the con- 
vent before night; for this was one of the most absolute and 
strictly-enforced rules of the Capuchin discipline. 

In the mean time, there had been plans proposed and de- 
bated in Lucia's cottage, with which it is necessary to ac- 
quaint the reader. After the departure of the friar, the three 
friends remained some time silent; Lucia, with a sorrowful 
heart, preparing the dinner ; Renzo, irresolute, and changing 
his position every moment, to avoid the sight of her mourn- 
ful face, yet without heart to leave her; Agnese, apparently 
intent upon the reel she was winding, though, in fact, she 
was deliberating upon a plan ; and when she thought it suffi- 
ciently matured, she broke the silence with these words : — 

* Listen, my children. If you have as much courage and 
dexterity as is required; if you will trust your mother, (this 
your mother, addressed to both, made Lucia's heart bound 
within her,) I will undertake to get you out of this difficulty, 
better, perhaps, and more quickly than Father Cristoforo, 
though he is a man.' Lucia stopped and looked at her 
mother with a face more expressive of wonder than of 
confidence in so magnificent a promise; and Renzo hastily 
exclaimed, * Courage ? dexterity ? — tell me, tell me, what 
can we do ? ' 

* If you were married,' continued Agnese, * it would be the 
great difficulty out of the way — wouldn't it? and couldn't we 
easily find a remedy for all the rest ? ' 

* Is there any doubt?' said Renzo: 'if we were married. 
. . . One may live anywhere ; and, at Bergamo, not far from 
here, a silk-weaver would be received with open arms. You 
know how often my cousin Bortolo has wanted me to go and 
live with him, that I might make a fortune as he has done; 
and if I have never listened to him, it is . . . you know, be- 
cause my heart was here. Once married, we would all go 
thither together, and live in blessed peace, out of this villain's 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 93 

reach, and far from temptation to do a rash deed. Isn't it 
true, Lucia ? ' 

* Yes/ said Lucia ; ' but how ? . . / 

* As I have told you/ repHed Agnese. ' Be bold and expert, 
and the thing is easy.' 

' Easy ! ' at the same moment exclaimed the two lovers, to 
whom it had become so strangely and sadly difficult. 

' Easy, if you know how to go about it/ replied Agnese. 
' Listen attentively to me, and I will try and make you under- 
stand it. I have heard say, by people who ought to know, 
and I have seen it myself in one case, that to solemnize a 
marriage, a curate, of course, is necessary, but not his good- 
will or consent; it is enough if he is present.' 

' How can this be ? ' asked Renzo. 

* Listen, and you shall hear. There must be two witnesses, 
nimble and well agreed. They must go to the priest; the 
point is to take him by surprise, that he mayn't have time to 
escape. The man says, " Signor Curate, this is my wife ;" 
the woman says, " Signor Curate, this is my hiisband." It is 
necessary that the curate and the witnesses hear it, and then 
the marriage is just as valid and sacred as if the Pope had 
blessed it. When once the words are spoken, the curate may 
fret, and fume, and storm, but it will do no good; you are 
man and wife.' 

* Is it possible ? ' exclaimed Lucia. 

* What ! ' said Agnese, ' do you think I have learnt nothing 
in the thirty years I was in the world before you ? The thing 
is just as I told you; and a friend of mine is a proof of it, 
who, wishing to be married against the will of her parents, 
did as I was saying, and gained her end. The curate sus- 
pected it, and was on the watch ; but they knew so well how 
to go about it, that they arrived just at the right moment, 
said the words, and became man and wife ; though she, poor 
thing ! repented of it before three days were over.' 

It was, in fact, as Agnese had represented it; marriages 
contracted in this manner were then, and are even to this 
day, acknowledged valid. As, however, this expedient was 
l^ever resorted to but by those who had met with some obstacle 
or refusal in the ordinary method, the priest took great care 
to avoid such forced co-operation; and if one of them hap- 



94 ALESSANDEO MANZONI 

pened to be surprised by a couple, accompanied with witnesses, 
he tried every means of escape, like Proteus in the hands of 
those who would have made him prophesy by force. 

* If it were true, Lucia ! ' said Renzo, fixing his eyes upon 
her with a look of imploring expectation. 

* What ! if it were true ? ' replied Agnese. * You think, then, 
I tell lies. I do my best for you, and am not believed: very 
well; get out of the difficulty as you can: I wash my hands 
of it/ 

. * Ah, no ! don't forsake us,' cried Renzo. * I said so be- 
cause it appeared too good a thing. I place myself in your 
hands, and will consider you as if you were really my mother.' 

These v/ords instantly dispelled the momentary indignation 
of Agnese, and made her forget a resolution which, in reality, 
had only been in word. 

^ But why, then, mother,' said Lucia, in her usual gentle 
manner, Svhy didn't this plan come into Father Cristoforo's 
mind ? ' 

' Into his mind ? ' replied Agnese ; * do you think it didn't 
come into his mind? But he wouldn't speak of it/ 

* Why ? ' demianded they both at once. 

' Because . . . because, if you must know it, the friars 
think that it is not exactly a proper thing.* 

* How can it help standing firm, and being well done, when 
it is done ! ' said Renzo. 

* How can I tell you ? ' replied Agnese. * Other people have 
made the law as they pleased, and we poor people can't under- 
stand all. And then, how many things . o . See; it is like 
giving a Christian a blow. It isn't right, but when it is once 
given, not even the Pope can recall it.' 

* If it isn't right/ said Lucia, ' we ought not to do it/ 

* What ! * said Agnese, * would I give you advice contrary 
to the fear of God? If it were against the will of your 
parents, and to marry a rogue . . . but when I am satisfied, 
and it is to wed this youth, and he who makes all this dis- 
turbance is a villain, and the Signor Curate , , / 

' It is as clear as the sun/ said Renzo. 

* One need not speak to Father Cristoforo, before doing it,* 
continued Agnese; *but when it is once done, and has well 
succeeded, what do you think the Father will say to you?— 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 95 

Ah, daughter ! it was a sad error, but it is done. The friars, 
you know, must talk so. But trust me, in his heart he will be 
very well satisfied/ 

Without being able to answer such reasoning, Lucia did 
not think it appeared very convincing; but Renzo, quite en- 
couraged, said, ' Since it is thus, the thing is done/ 

* Gently,' said Agnese. * The witnesses, where are they 
to be found ? Then, how will you manage to get at the Signor 
Curate, who has been shut up in his house two days? And 
how make him stand when you do get at him? for though 
he is weighty enough naturally, I dare venture to say, when he 
sees you make your appearance in such a guise, he will become 
as nimble as a cat, and flee like the devil from holy water.' 

' I have found a way — I've found one,' cried Renzo, strik- ^ 
ing the table with his clenched hand, till he made the dinner- 
things quiver and rattle with the blow; and he proceeded to 
relate his design, which Agnese entirely approved. 

* It is all confusion/ said Lucia ; ' it is not perfectly honest 
Till now we have always acted sincerely; let us go on in 
faith, and God will help us ; Father Christoforo said so. Do 
listen to his advice/ 

* Be guided by those who know better than you,' said 
Agnese, gravely. * What need is there to ask advice ? God 
bids us help ourselves, and then He will help us. We will tell 
the Father all about it when it is over/ 

VLucia,' said Renzo, *will you fail me now? Have we not 
done all like good Christians ? Ought we not now to have been 
man and wife ? Didn't the Curate himself fix the day and hour? 
And whose fault is it, if we are now obliged to use a little 
cunning? No, no; you won't fail me. I am going, and will 
come back with an answer.' So saying, he gave Lucia an im- 
ploring look, and Agnese a very knowing glance, and hastily 
took his departure. 

It is said that trouble sharpens the wit; and Renzo, who, 
in the upright and straightforward path he had hitherto 
followed, had never had occasion to sharpen his in any great 
degree, had, in this instance, planned a design that would 
have done honour to a lawyer. He went directly, as he had 
purposed, to a cottage near at hand, belonging to a certain 
Tonio, whom he found busy in the kitchen, with one knee 



96 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

resting on the stand of a chafing-dish, holding; in his right 
hand the handle of a saucepan, that stood on the burning 
embers, and stirring with a broken rolling-pin, a little grey 
polenta^ of Turkey flour. The mother, brother, and wife of 
Tonio, were seated at the table ; and three or four little chil- 
dren stood around, waiting, with eyes eagerly fixed on the 
saucepan, till the gruel should be ready to pour out. But the 
pleasure was wanting which the sight of dinner usually 
gives to those who have earned it by hard labour. The 
quantity of the polenta was rather in proportion to the times 
than to the number and inclinations of the household; and 
each one ejeing the common food with envious looks of strong 
desire, seemed to be measuring the extent of appetite likely 
to survive it. While Renzo was exchanging salutations with 
the family, Tonio poured out the polenta into the wooden 
trencher that stood ready to receive it, and it looked like a little 
moon in a large circle of vapour. Nevertheless, the women 
courteously said to Renzo, ' Will you take some with us ? ' — a 
compliment that the Lombard peasant never fails to pay to 
any one who finds him at a meal, even though the visitor 
were a rich glutton just risen from table, and he were at the 
last mouthful. 

* Thank you,' replied Renzo ; * I only came to say a word or 
two to Tonio; and if you like, Tonio, not to disturb your 
family, we can go dine at the inn, and talk there.' This pro- 
posal was as acceptable to Tonio as it was unexpected; and 
the women, not unwilling, saw one competitor for the polenta 
removed, and that the most formidable. Tonio did not require 
a second asking, and they set off together. 

Arrived at the village inn, they sat down at their ease, 
perfectly alone, since the prevailing poverty had banished 
all the usual frequenters of this scene of mirth and joviality. 
They called for the little that was to be had, and having 
emptied a glass of wine, Renzo addressed Tonio with an air 
of mystery ; ' If you will do me a small favour, I will do you 
a great one.' 

* What is it? — tell me! I'm at your service,' replied Tonio,. 
pouring out another glass ; ' I'm ready to go into the fire for 
you to-day.' 

1 A thick gruel, made of flour and water, boiled together. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 97 

' You are in debt twenty-five livres to the Signer Curate for 
the rent of his field that you worked last year.' 

*Ah, Renzo, Renzo ! you've spoiled your kindness. Why 
did you remind me of it now? You've put to flight all my 
good will towards you.' 

' If I reminded you of your debt/ said Renzo, * it is because 
I intend, if you like, to give you the means of paying it.' 

' Do you really mean so ? ' 

' I do really. Well, are you content ? ' 

' Content ? I should think so, indeed ! if it were for no other 
reason than to get rid of those tormenting looks and shakes 
of the head the Signor Curate gives me every time I meet 
him. And then it is always — "Tonio, remember : Tonio, when 
shall I see you to settle this business ? " He goes so far, that, 
when he fixes his eyes upon me in preaching, I'm half afraid 
he will say publicly: Those twenty-five livres! I wish the 
twenty-five livres were far away ! And then he will have to 
give me back my wife's gold necklace, and I could change it 
into so much polenta. But . . .' 

* 'But, if you'll do me a little service, the twenty-five livres 
are ready.' 

* With all my heart; go on.' 

* But ! , . .' said Renzo, laying his finger across his lips. 

* Need you tell me that ? You know m^e.' 

* The Signor Curate has been starting some absurd objec- 
tions, to delay my marriage. They tell me for certain, that 
if we go before him with two witnesses, and I say. This is my 
wife; and Lucia, This is my husband; the marriage is valid. 
Do you understand me?' 

* You want me to go as a witness ? ' 
*Yes.' 

* And you will pay the twenty-five livres for me ? ' 

* That is what I mean.' 

* He's a goose that would fail.' 

' But we must find another witness.* 

* I have him ! That young clownish brother of mine, 
Gervase, will do anything I bid him. You'll pay him with 
something to drink ? ' 

*And to eat, too,' replied Renzo. 'We'll bring him here 
to make merry with us. But will ae know what to do ? * 

HC 4— Vol. 21 



98 ALESSANDUO MANZONI 

* I'll teach him. You know I have got his share of brains/ 

* To-morrow . . / 

* Well/ 

* Towards evening . « / 
' Very well.' 

^ But ! „ „ .' said Renzo, again putting his finger on his 
lips. 

' Poh !' replied Tonio, bending his head on his right shoul- 
der, and raising his left hand, with a look that seemed to say. 
Do you doubt me ? 

^But if your wife questions you, as without doubt she 
will « , / 

' I owe my- wife some lies, and so many, that I don't know 
if I shall ever manage to balance the account. I'll find some 
idle story to put her heart at rest, I warrant you.' 

* To-morrow,' said Renzo, Ve will make arrangements, that 
everything may go on smoothly.' 

So saying, they left the inn, Tonio bending his steps home- 
wards, and contriving some tale to relate to the women, and 
Renzo to give an account of the concerted arrangements. 

In the mean while, Agnese had been vainly endeavouring 
to convince her daughter. To every argument, Lucia opposed 
one side or other of her dilemma; either the thing is wrong, 
and we ought not to do it, or it is not wrong, and why not 
tell it to Father Cristof oro ? 

Renzo arrived quite triumphant, and reported his success, 
finishing with a ahnf — a Milanese interjection which signi- 
fies—Am I a man or not? can you find a better plan? would 
it ever have entered your head? and a hundred other such 
things. 

Lucia shook her head doubtfully; but the other two en- 
thusiasts paid little attention to it, as one does to a child 
when one despairs of making it understand all the reasons 
of a thing, and determines to induce it hy entreaties or 
authority to do as it is required. 

* It goes on well,' said Agnese, ' very well ; but . . . you 
haven't thought of everything.' 

* What is wanting ? ' replied Renzo. 

' Perpetua ! — you haven't thought of Perpetua ! She will 
admit Tonio and his brother well enough, but you — you two — 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 99 

just think I You will have to keep her at a distance, as one 
keeps a boy from a pear-tree full of ripe fruit.' 

* How shall we manage ? ' said Renzo, beginning to think. 

' See, now ! / have thought of that, too ; I v/ill go with you; 
and I have a secret that will draw her away, and engage her, 
so that she sha'n't see you, and you can go in. I'll call her 
out, and v/ill touch a chord „ , . You shall see.' 

' Bless you ! ' exclaimed Renzo; ' I always said you are our 
help in everything.' 

' But all this is of no use,' said Agnese, ' unless we can per- 
suade Lucia, who persists in saying it is a sin.' 

Renzo brought in all his eloquence to his aid, but Lucia 
continued immovable. 

' I cannot answer all your arguments,' said she ; * but I see 
that, to do what you v/ant, v/e shall be obliged to use a great 
deal of disguise, falsehood, and deceit. Ah, Renzo ! we didn't 
begin so. I wish to be your wife ' — and she could never 
pronounce this word, or give expression to this desire, with- 
out a deep flush overspreading her cheek — * I wish to be your 
wife, but in the right way — in the fear of God, at the altar. 
Let us leave all to Him who is above. Do you think He can- 
not find means to help us better than we, with all these deceit- 
ful ways? And why make a mystery of it to Father 
Cristoforo ? ' 

The dispute was still prolonged, and seemed not likely to 
come to a speedy conclusion, when the hasty tread of sandals, 
and the sound of a rustling cassock, resembling the noise 
produced by repeated gusts of wind in a slackened sail, an- 
nounced the approach of Father Cristoforo. There was 
instant silence, and Agnese had scarcely time to whisper in 
Lucia's ear, * Be sure you say nothing about it/ 




CHAPTER VII 

SATHER CRISTOFORO arrived with the air of a good 
general, who having lost an important battle, without 
any fault on his part, — distressed, but not discour- 
aged; thoughtful, but not confounded; retreating, but not 
put to flight; turns his steps where necessity calls for his 
presence, fortifying threatened quarters, regulating his 
troops, and giving new orders. 

* Peace be with you!' said he, as he entered. * There is 
nothing to hope from man; you have therefore more need 
to trust in God, and I have already had a pledge of His 
protection.' 

Although none of the party had anticipated much from 
Father Cristoforo's attempt, (since, to see a powerful noble- 
man desist from an act of oppression, unless he were over- 
come by a superior power, from regard to the entreaties of 
a disarmed suppliant, was rather an unheard-of, than a rare, 
occurrence,) yet the melancholy certainty came as a blow 
upon them all. Their heads involuntarily drooped, but 
anger quickly prevailed over depression in Renzo's mind. 
The announcement found him already wounded and irritated 
by a succession of painful surprises, fallacious attempts, and 
disappointed hopes, and, above all, exasperated at this 
moment by the repulses of Lucia. 

' I should like to know,' said he, gnashing his teeth and 
raising his voice as he had never before done in the preS' 
ence of Father Cristoforo ; ' I should like to know what 
reasons this dog gives for asserting . . . for asserting that 
my bride should not be my bride ? ' 

' Poor Renzo ! ' replied the friar, with a look and accent 
of pity that kindly recommended peaceableness ; * if the pow- 
erful who do such deeds of injustice, were always obliged 
to give their reasons, things would not be as they are.' 

* Did the dog then say that he would not, because he would 
i^ot?' 

*He didn't even say that, my poor fellow! It would be 

100 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 101 

something, if so commit iniquity, they were obliged openly 
to confess it/ 

* But he must have told you something ; what did this in- 
fernal firebrand say ? ' 

* I heard his words, but I cannot repeat them to you. 
The words of a powerful wicked man are violent, but con- 
tradictory. He can be angry that you are suspicious of him, 
and at the same time make you feel that your suspicions 
are well-founded; he can insult you, and call himself 
offended; ridicule you, and ask your opinion; threaten, and 
complain; be insolent, and irreprehensible. Ask no more. 
He neither mentioned the name of this innocent, nor your 
own ; he did not even appear to know you, nor did he say he 
designed anything; but . . , but I understood too well that 
he is immovable. However, confidence in God, you poor 
creatures ! ' turning to Agnese and Lucia, * don't give up in 
despair ! And you, Renzo ... oh ! believe me, I can put 
myself in your place; I can feel what passes in your heart. 
But, patience; it is a poor word, a bitter one to those who 
have no faith ; but you — will you not allow God one day, two 
days, or whatever time He may please to take to clear you 
and give you justice ? The time is His ; and He has promised 
us much. Leave Him to work, Renzo ; and <. . , believe me, 
I already have a clue that may lead to something for your 
help. I cannot tell you more at present. To-morrow I 
shall not come here; I must be at the convent all day, for 
you. You, Renzo, try to come to me; or if, by any un- 
foreseen accident, you cannot, send a trustworthy man, or 
a lad of discretion, by whom I may let you know what may 
happen. It grows dark ; I shall have to make haste to reach 
the convent. Faith, courage, and good night.' 

Having said this, he hastily left them, and made his 
way rapidly along a crooked, stony by-path, that he might 
not be late at the convent, and run the risk of a severe 
reprimand, or, what would have grieved him more, the in- 
fliction of a penance, which might have disabled him on the 
morrow from any undertaking which the service of his 
proteges might require. 

* Did you hear what he said about ... I don't know what 
, c . about a clue that he held in hand to help us?' said 



102 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Lucia. ' It Is best to trust in him ; he is a man who, if he 

promises ten . . / ^ 

' I know there is not his like/ interrupted Agnese ; ' but he 
ought to have spoken more clearly, or, at leasts taken me 
aside and told me what it was/ 

' Idle prating ! I'll put an end to it, that I will 1 ' inter- 
rupted Renzo, in his turn, as he paced furiously up and 
down the room^ with a look and tone that left no doubt 
as to the meaning of his words. 

* Oh, Renzo ! ' exclaimed Lucia. 

' What do you mean ? ' cried Agnese. 

* Why need I tell you ? I'll put an end to it ! Though he 
has a hundred, a thousand devils in his soul, he's flesh and 
blood, after all.' 

' No, DO ! for Heaven's sake ! . . / began Lucia^ but tears 
choked her utterance. \ 

' This is not proper language, even in jest,' replied Agnese. 

* In jest!' cried Renzo, planting himself directly before 
Agnese, as she sat, and fixing on her two fearful-looking 
eyes. * In jest ! you shall see whether I am in jest or not.* 

'Ah, Renzo ! ' said Lucia, scarcely able to articulate for 
sobs, * I never saw you so before.' 

' Don't talk so, for Heaven's sake ! ' replied Agnese, has- 
tily, lowering her voice. * Don't you remember how many 
arms he has at his bidding? And then, there is alv/ays 
justice to be had against the poor . . . God defend them ! ' 

' I will get justice for myself, I will. It is time now. 
The thing isn't easy, I know. The ruffian is well defended, 
dog that he is ! I know how it is : but never mind. Patience 
and resolution . . . and the time will soon arrive. Yes, I 
will get justice. I'll free the country, and people will bless 
me ! And then in four bounds . . ,' 

The horror of Lucia at these explicit declarations re- 
pressed her sobs, and inspired her with courage to speak. 
Raising from her hands her face bathed in tears, she ad- 
dressed Renzo in a mournful, but resolute tone : * You no 
longer care, then, about having me for your wife? I prom- 
ised myself to a youth who had the fear of God : but a man 
who has . . . were he safe from all justice and vengeance, 
were he the son of a Icing . . .' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 103 

* Very well ! ' cried Renzo, his face more tlian ever con- 
vulsed with fury; 'I won't have you, then; but he sha'n't 
either. I will be here without vou, and he in the abode 
of _ / 

*Ah, no, for pity's sake, don't say so ; don't look so furious ! 
No, no, I cannot bear to see you thus,' exclaimed Lucia, 
weeping, and joining her hands in an attitude of earnest 
supplication; while Agnese repeatedly called him by name, 
and seized hold of his shoulders, his arms, and his hands, 
to pacify him. He stood immovable, thoughtful, almost 
overcomxC at the sight of Lucia's imploring countenance; 
then, suddenly gazed at her sternly, drew back, stretched out 
his arm, and pointing with his finger towards her, burst 
forth: *Herl yes, he wants her! He must die!' 

*And /, what harm have I done you, that you should kill 
mef said Lucia, throwing herself on her knees 

* You ! ' said he, with a voice expressive of anger, though 
of a far different nature; * you ! what good do you wish mer 
What proof have you given me? Haven't I begged, and 
begged, and begged? . . . Have I been able to obtain . . .* 

* Yes, yes,'' replied she, precipitately ; * I will go to the 
Curate's to-morrow; I will go now, if you like. Only be 
yourself again, I will go.' 

* You promise me ? ' said Renzo, his voice and expression 
rendered in an instant more human. 

' I promise you.' 

* You have promised me ? ' 

* Thanks be to Thee, O Lord ! ' exclaimed Agnese, doubly 
satisfied. 

Did Renzo, in the midst of his anger, discern the advan- 
tage that might be taken of Lucia's terror ? And did he not 
practise a little artifice to increase it, that he might use this 
advantage? Our author protests he knows nothing about 
the matter; nor, I think, did even Renzo himself know very 
well. At any rate, he was undoubtedly enraged beyond 
measure with Don Rodrigo, and ardently desired Lucia's 
consent; and when two powerful passions struggle together 
in a man's mind, no one, not even the most patient, can 
always clearly discern one voice from the other, or say, with 
certainty, which of them predominates. 



104 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'I have promised you/ replied Lucia, with an accent 
of timid and affectionate reproof ; " but you have also 
promised not to make any disturbance — to submit yourself 
to Father . . / 

* Come, now, for whose sake did I get into a passion ? Do 
you want to draw back? And will you oblige me to do a 
rash thing ? ' 

* No, no,' said Lucia, ready to relapse into her former 
fears. ' I have promised, and I will not draw back. But 
see how you have made me promise ; God forbid that . . .' 

*Why will you prophesy evil, Lucia? God knows v/e do 
no wrong to anybody.' 

* Promise me, at least, this shall be the last time.' 
' I promise you, upon my word.' 

' But this once you will stand by him,' said Agnese. 

Here the author confesses his ignorance of another mat- 
ter, and that is, whether Lucia was absolutely, and on every 
account, dissatisfied at being obliged to give her consent. 
We follow his example, and leave the point undecided. 

Renzo would willingly have prolonged the conversation, 
and allotted their several parts in the proceedings of the 
morrow; but it was already dark, and the women wished 
him good night, as they thought it scarcely decorous that 
he should remain any longer with them at so late an hour. 

The night was passed by all three as well as could be ex- 
pected, considering that it followed a day of such excite- 
ment and misfortune, and preceded one fixed upon for an 
important undertaking of doubtful issue. Renzo made his 
appearance early next morning, and concerted with the 
women, or rather with Agnese, the grand operations of the 
evening, alternately suggesting and removing difficulties, 
foreseeing obstacles, and both beginning, by turns, to de- 
scribe the scene as if they were relating a past Q.YQ.nt. Lucia 
listened; and, without approving in words what she could 
not agree to in her heart, promised to do as well as she 
was able. 

'Are you going down to the convent to see Father Cristo- 
f oro, as he bid you, last night ? ' said Agnese to Renzo. 

' Not I,' replied he ; * you know what discerning eyes the 
Father has; he will read in my looks, as if it were written 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 105 

in a book, that there's something in the wind; and if he 
begins to question me, I can't get off it easily. And, besides, 
I must stay here to arrange matters. It will be better for 
you to send somebody.' 

*I will send Menico.' 

*Very well,' replied Renzo; and he set off to arrange 
matters, as he had said. 

Agnese went to a neighbouring cottage to ask for Menico, 
a sprightly and very sensible lad for his age, who, through 
the medium of cousins and sisters-in-law, came to be a sort 
of nephew to the dame. She asked his parents for him, as 
for a loan, and begged she might keep him the whole day, 
* for a particular service,' said she. Having obtained per- 
mission, she led him to her kitchen, gave him his breakfast, 
and bid him go to Pescarenico, and present himself to Father 
Cristoforo, who vv^ould send him back with a message at the 
right time. * Father Cristoforo, that fine old man, you know, 
with a white beard, who is called the Saint . o .' 

' I understand,' said Menico ; ' he who speaks so kindly to 
the children, and sometimes gives them pictures.' 

'Just so, Menico. And if he bids you wait some time at 
the convent, don't wander away; and be sure you don't go 
with other boys to the lake to throw stones into the water, 
nor to watch them fish, nor to play with the nets hung u^ to 
dry, nor o . o' 

' Poh, aunt ; I am no longer a child.' 

* Well, be prudent ; and when you come back with the 
answer . . . look; these two fine new parpagliole are for 
you.' 

* Give me them now, that . . .' 

' No, no, you will play with them. Go, and behave well, 
that you may have some more.' 

In the course of this long morning many strange things 
happened which roused not a little suspicion in the already- 
disturbed minds of Agnese and Lucia. A beggar, neither 
thin nor ragged, as they generally were, and of somewhat 
dark and sinister aspect, came and asked alms, in God's 
name, at the same time looking narrowly around. A piece 
of bread was given him, which he received, and placed in 
his basket, with ill-dissembled indifference. He then loitered. 



106 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and made many inquiries, with a mixed air of imptidence 
and hesitation, to Vi^hich Agnese endeavoured to make replies 
exactly contrary to the truth. When about to depart, he 
pretended to mistake the door, and went to that at the foot 
of the stairs, glancing hastily upv/ards, as v/ell as he could* 
On their calling him back — * Hey ! hey ! where are you goings 
my good man ? — this way ! ' he turned and went out by the 
door that was pointed cut to him, excusing himself with a 
submission, and an affected humility, that ill accorded with 
the fierce and hard features of his face. After his depar- 
ture, they continued to mark, from time to time, other sus- 
picious and strange figures. It was not easy to discern what 
kind of men they were; yet still they could not believe them 
to be the unpretending passers-by they wished to appear. 
One would enter under pretence of asking the way; others, 
arriving at the door, slackened their pace, and peeped 
through the little yard into the room., as if wishing to see 
without exciting suspicion. At last, towards noon, these 
annoying and alarming appearances ceased. Agnese got up 
occasionally, and crossed the little yard to the street-door, 
to reconnoitre ; and after looking anxiously around on either 
side, returned with the intelligence, ' There's nobody ; ' 
words which she uttered with pleasure, and Lucia heard with 
satisfaction, neither one nor the other knowing exactly the 
reason why. But an undefined disquietude haunted their 
steps, and, with Lucia especially, in some degree cooled the 
courage they had summoned up for the proceedings of the 
evening. 

The reader, however, must be told something more definite 
about these mysterious wanderers; and to relate it in order, 
we must turn back a step or two, and find Don Rodrigo, 
whom we left yesterday after dinner by himself, in one of 
the rooms of his palace, after the departure of Father 
Cristoforo. 

Don Rodrigo, as we have said, paced backwards and for- 
wards with long strides in this spacious apartment, sur- 
rounded on all sides by the family portraits of many genera- 
tions. When he reached the wall and turned round, his 
eye rested upon the figure of one of his vv^arlike ancestors, 
the terror of his enemies, and of his own soldiers ; who, with 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 107 

a stern grim countenance, his short hair standing erect from 
his forehead, his large sharp whiskers covering his cheeks, 
and his hooked chin, stood like a warrior, clothed in a com- 
plete suit of steel armour, with his right hand pressing his 
side, and the left grasping the hilt of his sword. Don 
Rodrigo gazed upon it, and when he arrived beneath it, 
and turned back, beheld before him another of his fore- 
fathers, a magistrate, and the terror of litigants, seated in 
a high chair, covered with crimson velvet, enveloped in an 
ample black robe, so that he was entirely black, excepting 
for a white collar, with two large bands, and a lining of 
sable, turned wrong side outwards, (this was the distinctive 
mark of senators, but only worn in winter ; for which reason 
the picture of a senator in summer-clothing is never met 
with,) squalid, and frowning; he held in his hand a memo- 
rial, and seemed to be saying, * We shall see/ On the one 
hand was a matron, the terror of her maids; on the other, 
an abbot, the terror of his monks; in short, they were all 
persons who had been objects of terror while alive, and 
who now inspired dread by their likenesses. In the presence 
of such remembrancers, Don Rodrigo became enraged and 
ashamed, as he reflected that a friar had dared to come to 
him with the parable of Nathan; and his mind could find 
no peace. He would form a plan of revenge, and then aban- 
don it; seek how, at the same time, to satisfy his passion, 
and what he called his honour; and sometimes, hearing the 
beginning of the prophecy resounding in his ears, he would 
involuntarity shudder, and be almost inclined to give up the 
idea of the two satisfactions. At last, for the sake of doing 
something, he called a servant, and desired him to make 
an apology for him to the company, and to say that he was 
detained by urgent business. The servant returned with the 
intelligence that the gentlem-en, having left their compli- 
ments, had taken their leave. 

'And Count Attilio ? ' asked Don Rodrigo, still pacing the 
room. 

* He left with the gentlemen, illustrious Signor.' 

* Very well ; six followers to accompany me — quickly ! my 
sword, cloak -and hat, immediately ! ' 

The servant replied by a bow and withdrew, returning 



108 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

shortly with a rich sword, which his master buckled on, a 
cloak which he threw over his shoulders, and a hat, orna- 
mented with lofty plumes, which he placed on his head, and 
fastened with a haughty air. He then moved forward, and 
found the six bravoes at the door, completely armed, who, 
making way for him, with a low bow, followed as his train. 
More surly, more haughty, and more supercilious than usual, 
he left his palace, and took the way towards Lecco, amidst 
the salutations and profound bows of the peasants he hap- 
pened to meet; and the ill-mannered wight who would have 
ventured to pass without taking off his hat, might consider 
he had purchased the exemption at a cheap rate, had the 
bravoes in the train been contented merely to enforce respect 
by a blow on the head. To these salutations Don Rodrigo 
made no acknowledgment ; but to men of higher rank, though 
still indisputably inferior to his own, he replied with con- 
strained courtesy. He did not chance this time, but when 
he did happen to meet with the Spanish Signor, the Gov- 
ernor of the Castle, the salutations were equally profound 
on both sides ; it was like the meeting of two potentates, who 
have nothing to share between them, yet, for convenience 
sake, pay respect to each other's rank. To pass away the 
time, and, by the sight of far different faces and behaviour, 
to banish the image of the friar, which continually haunted 
his mind, Don Rodrigo entered a house where a large party 
was assembled, and where he was received with that officious 
and respectful cordiality reserved for those who are greatly 
courted, and greatly feared. Late at night he returned to 
his own palace, and found that Count Attilio had just ar- 
rived; and they sat down to supper together, Don Rodrigo 
buried in thought, and very silent. 

* Cousin, when will you pay your wager ? ' asked Count 
Attilio, in a malicious, and at the same time rallying, tone, 
as soon as the table was cleared, and the servants hafl 
departed. 

* St. Martin has not yet passed.' 

* Well, remember you will have to pay it soon ; for all the 
saints in the calendar will pass before . . .' 

* This has to be seen yet.' 

* Cousin, y;ou want to play the politician ; but I understand 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 109 

ill ', and I am so certain of having won my wager, that I am 
ready to lay another/ 
'What?' 

* That the Father „ . . the Father c . . I mean, in short, 
that this friar has converted you.' 

' It is a mere fancy of your own.' 

* Converted, cousin ; converted, I say, I, for my part, am 
delighted at it. What a fine sight it will be to see you quite 
penitent, with downcast eyes ! And what triumph for this 
Father! How proudly he must have returned to the con- 
vent! You are not such fish as they catch every day, nor 
in every net. You may be sure they will bring you forward 
as an example; and when they go on a mission to som-e little 
distance, they will talk of your acts, I can fancy I hear 
them.' And, speaking through his nose, accompanying the 
words with caricatured gestures, he continued, in a sermon- 
like tone, " In a certain part of the world, which from 
motives of high respect we forbear to name, there lived, my 
dear hearers, and there still lives, a dissolute gentleman, the 
friend of women rather than of good men, who, accustomed 
to make no distinctions, had set his eyes upon o . o" 

* That will do o o o enough,' interrupted Don Rodrigo, half 
amused and half annoyed : ' If you wish to repeat the wager, 
I am ready, too.' 

' Indeed ! perhaps, then, you have converted the Father ? ' 
' Don't talk to me about him : and as to the bet. Saint 
Martin will decide.' The curiosity of the Count was aroused ; 
he put numberless questions, but Don Rodrigo contrived to 
evade them all, referring everything to the day of decision, 
and unwilling to communicate designs which were neither 
begun nor absolutely determined upon. 

Next morning, Don Rodrigo was himself again. The slight 
compunction that 'a day will come' had awakened in his 
mind, had vanished with the dreams of the night; and noth- 
ing remained but a feeling of deep indignation, rendered 
more vivid by remorse for his passing weakness. The re- 
membrance of his late almost-triumphant walk, of the pro- 
found salutations, and the receptions he had met with, 
together with the rallying of his cousin, had contributed 
not a little to renew his former spirito Hardly risen, he 



110 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

sent for Griso. — Something important,— thought the servant 
to whom the order was given; for the man who bore this 
assumed name was no less a personage than the head of 
the bravoes, to whom the boldest and most dangerous enter- 
prises were confided, who v^/as the most trusted by his mas- 
ter, and v/as devoted to him, at all risks, by gratitude and 
interest. Guilty of murder, he had sought the protection 
of Don Rodrigo, to escape the pursuit of justice; and he, 
by taking him into his service, had sheltered him from the 
reach of persecution. Here, by engaging in every crime 
that was required of him, he was secured from the punish- 
ment of the first fault. To Don Rodrigo the acquisition had 
been of no small importance; for this Griso, besides being 
undoubtedly the most courageous of the household, w^as also 
a specimen of what his master had been able to attempt with 
impunity against the laws ; so that Don Rodrigo's power was 
aggrandized both in reality and in common opinion. 

* Griso ! ' said Don Rodrigo, ' in this emergency it will 
be seen what you are worth. Before to-morrow, Lucia must 
be in this palace,' 

* It shall never be said that Griso shrank from the com- 
mand of his noble protector/ 

* Take as many men as you want, dispose and order them 
as you think best, only let the thing succeed well But^ 
above all, be sure you do her no harm/ 

' Signor, a little fright, that she may not make too much 
noise . ^ » one cannot do less.' 

* Fear » e . I see o o . is inevitable. But don't you touch 
a hair of her head ; and, above all, treat her with the great- 
est respect Do you understand ? ' 

* Signor, I could not pluck a flower from its stalk, and 
bring it to your lordship, without touching it a little. But 
I will do no more than is necessary/ 

' Beware you do not And = « , how will you manage?' 
*I was thinking, Signor, It is fortunate that the house 
is at the end of the village. We shall want a place to con- 
ceal ourselves in; and at a little distance there's that unin- 
habited building in the middle of the fields, that house . » « 
but your lordship knows nothing of these things » o , a house 
that was burnt down a few da^s ago ; and there have bees 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 111 

no funds to rebuild it, so it is forsaken, and is haunted 
by witches ; but it is not Saturday, and I don't care for them. 
The villagers are so superstitious, they wouldn't enter it any 
night of the week for a treasure, so we may safely dispose 
ourselves there, without any fear of being disturbed in our 
plans/ 

'Very good: and what then?' 

Here Griso went on to propose, and Don Rodrigo to dis- 
cuss, till they had, together, concerted a way to bring the 
enterprise to an end without a trace of its authors remain- 
ing. They even contrived means to turn all the suspicions, 
by making false indications, upon another quarter ; to impose 
silence upon poor Agnese; to inspire Renzo with such fear 
as would overbalance his grief, efface the thought of having 
recourse to the law, and even the wish to complain; and 
arranged all the other minor villainies necessary to the suc- 
cess of this principal one. We will omit the account of 
these consultations, however, because, as the reader will 
perceive, they are not necessary to the comprehension of 
the story, and it will only be tedious, both to him and us, 
to entertain ourselves for any length of time with the dis- 
cussions of these two detestable villains. It will suffice to 
say that, as Griso was on the point of leaving the room, to 
go about the execution of his undertaking at once, Don 
Rodrigo called him back, and said, ^ Listen : if by any chance 
this rash clown should molest you to-night, it would not be 
amiss if you were to give him something to remember, on 
his shoulders, by way of anticipation. By this means, the 
commiand to keep quiet, which shall be intimated to him to- 
morrow, will more surely take effect. But don't go to look 
for him, lest you should spoil what is of more importance. 
Do you understand me ? ' 

' Leave it to me,' replied Griso, bowing with an obsequious 
and ostentatious air, as he departed. 

The morning was spent in reconnoitring the neighbour- 
hood. The feigned beggar v/ho had intruded himself so 
pertinaciously into Agnese's humble cottage, v/as no other 
than Griso, who had come to get an idea of the plan of the 
house by sight; the pretended passengers were his vile fol- 
lowers, v/ho, operating under his orders, required a less 



112 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

minute acquaintance with the place. Their observations 
being made, they withdrew from notice, lest they should 
excite too much suspicion. 

When they returned to the palace, Griso made his report, 
arranged definitely the plan of the enterprise, assigned to 
each his different part, and gave his instructions. All this 
could not be transacted without the old servant's observation, 
who, with his eyes and ears constantly on the alert, dis- 
covered that they were plotting some great undertaking. By 
dint of watching and questioning, getting half a hint here, 
and another half there, commenting in his own mind on 
ambiguous inferences, and interpreting mysterious depar- 
tures, he at length came to a pretty clear knowledge of 
all the designs of the evening. But when he was assured 
of them, it was very near the time, and already a small 
detachment of bravoes had left the palace, and set off to 
conceal themselves in the ruined building. The poor old 
man, although he well knew what a dangerous game he 
was playing, and feared, besides, that he was doing no 
efficient service, yet failed not to fulfil his engagement. He 
went out, under pretence of taking the air, and proceeded 
in great haste to the convent, to give Father Cristoforo the 
promised information. Shortly afterwards, a second party 
of bravoes were sent out, one or two at a time, that they 
might not appear to be one company. Griso made up the 
rear, and then nothing remained behind but a litter, which 
was to be brought to the place of rendezvous after dark. 
When they were all assembled there, Griso despatched three 
of them to the inn in the village; one was to place himself 
at the door, to watch the movements in the street, and to 
give notice when all the inhabitants had retired to rest; the 
other two were to remain inside, gaming and drinking, as 
if enjoying themselves, but were also to be on the lookout, 
if anything was to be seen. Griso, with the body of the 

troop, waited in ambuscade till the time of action should 

IJrrive. 

The poor old man was still on his way, the three scouts 
had arrived at their post, and the sun was setting, when 
Renzo entered the cottage, and said to the women, * Tonio 
and Gervase are here outside: I am going with them to sup 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 113 

at the inn ; and at the sound of the Ave-Maria, we will come 
to fetch you. Come, Lucia, courage; all depends upon a 
moment' Lucia sighed, and replied, * Oh yes, courage ! ' with 
a tone that belied her words. 

When Renzo and his two companions reached the inn, 
they found the bravo already there on the watch, leaning 
with his back against one of the jambs of the doorway, so 
as to occupy half its width, his arms folded across his breast, 
and glancing with a prying look to the right and left, show- 
ing alternately the blacks and whites of two grifSn-like eyes. 
A flat cap of crimson velvet, put on sideways, covered half 
the lock of hair which, parted on a dark forehead, terminated 
in tresses confined by a comb at the back of the head. He 
held in one hand a short cudgel; his weapons, properly 
speaking, were not visible, but one had only to look at his 
face, and even a child would have guessed that he had as 
many under his clothes as he could carry. When Renzo, 
the foremost of the three, approached him and seemed pre- 
pared to enter, the bravo fixed his eyes upon him, without 
attempting to make way; but the youth, intent on avoiding 
any questions or disputes, as people generally are who have 
an intricate undertaking in hand, did not even stop to say 
* make room ; ' but grazing the other door-post, pushed, side- 
foremost, through the opening left by this Caryatides, His 
companions were obliged to practise the same manoeuvre, if 
they wished to enter. When they got in, they saw the others 
whose voices they had heard outside, sitting at a table, play- 
ing at Mora,^ both exclaiming at once, and alternately pour- 
ing out something to drink from a large flask placed between 
them. They fixed their eyes steadily on the new comers ; and 
one of them, especially, holding his right hand extended in 
the air, with three enormous fingers just shot forth, and 
his mouth formed to utter the word * six,' which burst forth 
at the moment, eyed Renzo from head to foot, and glanced 
first at his companion, and then at the one at the door, 

^ This is a game between two, played by one of them suddenly extending 
any number of fingers he may choose, and calling at the same moment for 
some number under eleven, which the opponent must make up at once, by 
producing such a number of fingers, that the number called for may be 
summed up exactly on the extended fingers of the four hands. If he suc- 
ceed in making up the right number, he wins; if otherwise, the speaker. 
The bystanders keep count. This is a very exciting, lively game, and a 
great favourite among the Roman peasantry.. 



114 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

who replied with a nod of his head. Renzo, suspicious and 
doubtful, looked at his friends, as if seeking in their coun- 
tenances an interpretation of all these gestures; but their 
countenances indicated nothing beyond a good appetite. The 
landlord approached to receive his orders, and Renzo made 
him accompany him into an adjoining room, and ordered 
some supper. 

* Who are those strangers ? ' asked he, in a low voice, when 
his host returned with a coarse table-cloth under his arm, 
and a bottle in his hand. 

'I don't know them/ replied the host, spreading the 
table-cloth. 

'What! none of them?' 

*You know,' replied he, again smoothing the cloth on 
the table v/ith both his hands, ' that the first rule of our 
business is not to pry into other people's affairs; so that 
even our women are not inquisitive. It would be hard work, 
with the multitude of folk that come and go; always like 
a harbour — when the times are good, I mean; but let us 
cheer up now, for there may come better days. All we care 
for is whether our customers are honest fellows; who they 
are or are not, beyond that, is nothing to us. But, come! 
I will bring you a dish of hash, the like of which you've 
never tasted.' 

' How do you know . » . ? ' Renzo was beginning ; but the 
landlord, already on his way to the kitchen, paid no attention 
to his inquiry. Here, while he was taking up the stewing- 
pan in which was the above-mentioned hash, the bravo who 
had eyed our youth so closely accosted the host, and said, 
in an under-tone, ' Who are those good men ? ' 

'Worthy people of the village,' replied he, pouring the 
hash into the dish. 

'Very well; but what are they called? Who are they?' 
insisted he, in a sharp tone. 

^ One is called Renzo,' replied the host, speaking in a low 
voice ; ' a worthy youth reckoned — a silk weaver, who under- 
stands his business well. The other is a peasant of the name 
of Tonio, a good jovial comrade; pity he has so little; he'd 
spend it all here. The third is a simpleton, who eats will- 
ingly whatever is set before him. By your leave/ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI lis 

With these words and a slight bov/, he passed between 
the stove and the interrogator, and carried the dish into the 
next room. * How do you know/ resumed R.enzo, when he 
saw him reappear, * that they are honest men, if you don't 
know them ? ' 

* By their actions, my good fellow — men are knowm by 
their actions. Those vvho drink wine without criticizing it; 
who show the face of the King upon the counter v^ithout 
prating; who don't quarrel with other customers; and if they 
owe a blow to any one, go outside and away from the inn 
to give it, so that the poor landlord isn't brought into the 
scrape : — these are honest men. However, if one could know 
everybody to be honest, as Vv^e four know one another, it 
would be better. But why are you so inquisitive on these 
matters, when you are a bridegroom, and ought to have 
other things in your head? and with this hash before you, 
enough to make the dead rise again ? ' So saying, he returned 
to the kitchen^ 

Our author, remarking upon the different manner in which 
the landlord satisfied these various inquiries, says he was 
one who in words m.ade great professions of friendship for 
honest men in general, but who In practice paid much more 
attention to those v/ho had the character and appearance of 
knaves. He was, as every one must perceive, a m.an o£ 
singular character. 

The supper was not very blithesome. The two invited 
guests would have deliberately enjoyed the unusual grati- 
fication, but the inviter, pre-occupied by — the reader knows 
what — anxious and uneasy at the strange behaviour of these 
incognitos, was impatient for the time of departure. He 
spoke in an undertone, out of respect to the strangers, and 
in broken and hurried words. 

*What a fine thing,' suddenly exclaimed Gervase, ^that 
Renzo wants to marry, and is obliged . . . ! ' Renzo gave 
him a savage look, and Tonio exclaimed, * Hold your tongue, 
simpleton ! ' accompanying the epithet with a knock of his 
elbow. The conversation flagged till the end of the meal. 
Renzo, observing the strictest sobriety, managed to help 
his guests with so much discretion as to inspire them v/ith 
sufficient boldness, without making them giddy and be- 



116 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

wiidered. Supper being over, and the bill having been paid 
fey the one who had done the least execution, they had again 
to pass under the scrutinizing eyes of the three bravoes, 
who gazed earnestly at Renzo, as they had done on his 
entrance. When he had proceeded a few paces from the 
inn, he looked round, and saw that he was followed by the 
two bravoes whom he had left sitting in the kitchen; so he 
stood still with his companions, as much as to say, *Let 
us see what these fellows want with me.' On perceiving, 
however, that they were observed, they also stopped short, 
and speaking to each other in a suppressed voice, turned 
back again. Had Renzo been near enough to have heard 
their words, the following would have struck him as very 
strange : ' It will be a fine thing, however, without counting 
the drinking-money,' said one of the villains, *if we can 
relate, on our return to the palace, that we made them lay 
down their arms in a hurry; — by ourselves, too, without 
Signor Griso here to give orders ! ' 

'And spoil the principal business ! ' replied the other. 
* See, they've discovered something ; they are stopping to 
look at us. Oh, I wish it was later ! Let us turn back, 
or they'll surely suspect us ! Don't you see people are 
coming in every direction? Let us wait till they've all gone 
to bed.' 

There was, in fact, that stirring — that confused buzz — ■ 
which is usually heard in a village on the approach of even- 
ing, and which shortly afterwards gives place to the solemn 
stillness of night. Women arrived from the fields, carrying 
their infants on their backs, and holding by the hand the 
elder children, whom they were hearing repeat their evening 
prayers ; while the men bore on their shoulders their spades, 
and different implements of husbandry. On the opening of 
the cottage doors, a bright gleam of light sparkled from the 
fires, that were kindled to prepare their humble evening 
meal. In the street might be heard salutations exchanged, 
together with brief and sad remarks on the scarcity of 
the harvest, and the poverty of the times; while, above all, 
resounded the measured and sonorous tolls of the bell, 
which announced the close of day. When Renzo saw that 
his two indiscreet followers had retired, he continued his 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 117 

way amid the increasing darkness^ occasionally, in a low 
tone, refreshing the memories of one or other of the brothers 
on some point of their duties they might be likely to forget. 
When he arrived at Lucia's cottage, the night had quite 
closed in. 

* Between the acting of a dreadful thing,' 

says a foreign writer, who was not wanting in discernment, 

* And the first motion, all the interim is 
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream.' 

Lucia had suffered for several hours the horrors of such 
a dream; and Agnese — Agnese herself, the atithor of the 
design, was buried in thought, and could scarcely find words 
to encourage her daughter. But at the moment of awaking, 
at the moment when one is called upon to begin the dreaded 
undertaking, the mind is instantly transformed. A new 
terror and a new courage succeed those which before strug- 
gled within ; the enterprise presents itself to the mind like a 
fresh apparition ; that which at first sight, was most dreaded, 
seems sometimes rendered easy in a moment; and, on the 
other hand, an obstacle which, at first, was scarcely noticed, 
becomes formidable; the imagination shrinks back alarmed, 
the limbs refuse to fulfil their office, and the heart revokes 
the promises that were made with the greatest confidence. 
At Renzo's smothered knock, Lucia was seized with such 
terror, that, at the moment, she resolved to suffer anything, 
to be separated from him for ever rather than execute the 
resolutions she had made ; but when he had stood before her, 
and had said, ' Here I am, let us go ' — when all were ready 
to accompany him without hesitation, as a fixed and irre- 
vocable thing, Lucia had neither time nor heart to interpose 
difficulties; and, almost dragged along, she tremblingly took 
one arm of her mother, and one of her betrothed, and set 
off with the venturesome party. 

Very softly, in the dark, and with slow steps, they passed 
the threshold, and took the road that led out of the village. 
The shortest way would have been to have gone through 
it, to reach Don Abbondio's house, at the other end ; but they 
chose the longer course, as being the most retired. After 
passing along little narrow roads that ran between gardens 



118 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and fields, they arrived near the house, and here they 
divided. The two lovers remained hidden behind a corner 
of the building; Agnese was with them, but stood a little 
forwarder, that she might be able to run in time to meet 
Perpetua, and take possession of her. Tonio, with his block- 
head of a brother, Gervase, who knew how to do nothing by 
himself, and without whom nothing could be done, hastened 
boldly forward, and knocked at the door. 

* Who's there, at such an hour ? ' cried a voice from a 
window, that was thrown open at the moment: it was the 
voice of Perpetua. * There's nobody ill, that I know of. 
But, perhaps, some accident has happened ? ' 

' It is I,' replied Tonio, ' with my brother ; we want to 
speak to the Signor Curate.' 

' Is this an hour for Christians ? ' replied Perpetua, sharp- 
ly. * YouVe no consideration. Come again to-morrow/ 

* Listen; I'll come again, or not, just as you like; I've 
scraped together nobody knows how much money, and came 
to settle that little debt you know of. Here, I had five-and- 
twenty fine new berlinghe; but if one cannot pay, never 
mind ; I know well enough how to spend these, and I'll come 
again, when I've got together some more,' 

* Wait, wait ! I'll go, and be back in a moment. But why 
come at such an hour ? ' 

* If you can change the hour, I've no objection; as for me, 
here I am ; and if you don't want me, I'll go/ 

'No, no) wait a moment; I'll be back with the answer 
directly/ 

So saying, she shut the window again. At this instant, 
Agnese left the lovers, and saying, in a low voice to Lucia, 
' Courage ! it is but a moment ; it's only like drawing a 
tooth/ joined the two brothers at the door, and began gossip- 
ing with Tonio, so that, when Perpetua should return and 
see her, she might think she was just passing by, and that 
Tonio had detained her for a moment. 




CHAPTER VIII 

ARNEADES! who was he?— thought Don Abhondio 
to himself, as he sat in his arm-chair, in a room up- 
stairs, with a small volume lying open before him, 
just as Perpetua entered to bring him the message. — ^^Car- 
neades ! I seem to have heard or read this name ; it must be 
some man of learning — some great scholar of antiquity ; it is 
just like one of their names; but whoever was he? — So far 
was the poor man from foreseeing the storm that w^as gather- 
ing over his head. 

The reader must know that Don Abbondio was very fond 
o£ reading a little every day; and a neighbouring Curate, 
who possessed something of a iibrar37-, lent him one book 
after another, always taking the first that came to hand.' 
The work with which Don Abbondio was now engaged (being 
already convalescent, after his fever and fears, and even 
more advanced in his recovery from the fever than he wished 
should be believed) was a panegyric in honour of San Carlo, 
which had been delivered with much earnestness, and listened 
to with great admiration, in the Cathedral of Milan, two 
years before. The saint had been compared, on account of 
his love of study, to Archimedes; and so far Don Abbondio 
had met with no stumbling-block; because Archimedes has 
executed such great works, and has rendered his name s® 
famous, that it required no very vast fund of erudition to 
knov/ something about him. But after Archimedes, the orator 
also compares his saint to Carneades, and here the reader 
met with a check. At this point, Perpetua announced the 
visit of Tonio, 

' At this hour ! ' exclaimed Don Abbondio, also, naturally 
enough. 

* What would you have, sir ? They have no consideration, 
indeed ; but if you don't take him when you ca.n get him . „ .' 

*If I don't take him now, who knows when I can? Let 

119 



120 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him come in . . . Hey! hey! — Perpetua, are you quite sure 
it is Tonio ? ' 

'Diavolo!' replied Perpetua; and going down-stairs, she 
opened the door, and said, * Where are you ? ' Tonio ad- 
vanced, and, at the same moment, Agnese showed herself, 
and saluted Perpetua by name. 

* Good evening, Agnese,' said Perpetua ; * where are you 
coming from at this hour ? ' 

* I am coming from * * * mentioning a neighbouring 
village. ' And if you knew . , . ' continued she ; ' I've been 
kept late just for your sake.' 

*What for?' asked Perpetua; and turning to the two 
brothers, ' Go in,' said she, * and I'll follow.' 

' Because,' replied Agnese, ' a gossiping woman, who 
knows nothing about the matter . . . would you believe it? 
persists in saying that you were not married to Beppo 
Suolavecchia, nor to Anselmo Lunghigna, because they 
wouldn't have you ! I maintained that you had refused 
both one and the other . . .' 

*To be sure. Oh, what a false-tongued woman! Who 
is she ? ' 

' Don't ask me ; I don't want to make mischief.' 

'You shall tell me; you must tell me. I say she's a 
false body.' 

* Well, well . . . but you cannot think how vexed I was 
that I didn't know the whole history, that I might have 
put her down.' 

' It is an abominable falsehood,' said Perpetua — ' a most 
infamous falsehood! As to Beppo, everybody knows, and 
might have seen . . , Hey! Tonio; just close the door, and 
go up-stairs till I come.' 

Tonio assented from within, and Perpetua continued her 
eager relation. In front of Don Abbondio's door, a narrow 
street ran between two cottages, but only continued straight 
the length of the buildings, and then turned into the fields. 
Agnese went forward along this street, as if she would go 
a little aside to speak more freely, and Perpetua followed. 
When they had turned the corner, and reached a spot whence 
they could no longer see what happened before Don Abbon- 
dio's house, Agnese coughed loudly. This was the signal; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 121 

Renzo heard it, and re-animating Lucia by pressing her arm, 
they turned the corner together on tiptoe, crept very softly 
close along the wall, reached the door, and gently pushed it 
open; quiet, and stooping low, they were quickly in the 
passage; and here the two brothers were waiting for them. 
Renzo very gently let down the latch of the door, and they 
all four ascended the stairs, making scarcely noise enough 
for two. On reaching the landing, the two brothers advanced 
towards the door of the room at the side of the staircase, and 
the lovers stood close against the wall. 

* Deo gratias/ said Tonio, in an explanatory tone. 

' Eh, Tonio ! is it you ? Come in ! ' replied the voice 
Iwlthin. 

Tonio opened the door, scarcely wide enough to admit 
himself and his brother one at a time. The ray of light 
that suddenly shone through the opening, and crossed the 
dark floor of the landing, made Lucia tremble, as if she 
were discovered. When the brothers had entered, Tonio 
closed the door inside; the lovers stood motionless in the 
dark, their ears intently on the alert, and holding their 
breath; the loudest noise was the beating of poor Lucia's 
heart. 

Don Abbondio was seated, as we have said, in an old 
arm-chair, enveloped in an antiquated dressing-gown, and 
his head buried in a shabby cap, the shape of a tiara, which, 
by the faint light of a small lamp, formed a sort of cornice 
all round his face. Two thick locks, which escaped from 
beneath his head-dress, two thick eye-brows, two thick mus- 
tachios, and a thick tuft on the chin, all of them grey, and 
scattered over his dark and wrinkled visage, might be com- 
pared to bushes covered with snow, projecting from the face 
of a cliff, as seen by moonlight. 

* Aha ! ' was his salutation, as he took off his spectacles, 
and laid them on his book. 

* The Sigrior Curate will say I am come very late,' said 
Tonio, with a low bow, which Gervase awkwardly imitated. 

* Certainly, it is late — late every way. Don't you know 
I am ill?' 

* I'm very sorry for it.* 

*You must have heard I was ill, and didn't know when 



222 ALESSANDUO MANZONI 

I should be able to see anybody » . , But why have yon 
brought this — this boy ¥/ith you ? ' 

* For company, Signor Curate/ 
'Very well; let us see.' • 

* Here are twenty-five new herlinghe, with the figure of 
Saint Ambrose on horseback/ said Tonio, drawing a little 
parcel out o£ his pocket 

^ Let us see/ said Dor Abbondio ; and he took the parcel, 
put on his spectacles again, opened it, took out the berlinghe, 
turned them over and over^ counted them, and found them 
irreprehensible. 

* Now, Signor Curate, you will give me Tecla's necklace/ 
*You are right/ replied Don Abbondio; and going to a 

cupboard, he took out a key, looking round as if to see that 
all prying spectators were at a proper distance, opened one 
of the doors, and filling up the aperture with his person, 
introduced his head to see, and his arm to reach, the pledge ; 
then drawing it out, he shut the cupboard, unwrapped the 
paper, and saying, * Is that right?' folded it up again, and 
handed it to Tonio. 

' Now/ said Tonio, ^ will you please to put it in black 
and white ? ' 

- Not satisfied yet ! ' said Bon Abbondio. * I declare they 
knov/ everything. Eh 1 how suspicious the world has become ! 
Don't you trust me ? ' 

' What ! Signor Curate ! Don't I trust you ? You do me 
wrong. But as my name is in your black books, on the 
debtor's side , . , then, since you have had the trouble of 
writing once, so . . «, from life to death . . / 

^ Well, well/ interrupted Don Abbondio ; and muttering be- 
tween his teeth, he drew out one of the table-drawers, took 
thence pen, ink, and paper, and began to write, repeating the 
words aloud, as they proceeded from his pen. In the mean 
time, Tonio, and at his side, Gervase, placed themselves 
standing before the table in such a manner as to conceal the 
door from the view of the v/riter, and began to shuffle their 
> feet about on the fioor, as if in mere idleness, but, in reality, 
as a signal to those without to enter, and, at the same time, 
to drov/ii the noise of their footsteps. Don Abbondio, intent 
jupon his- writing, noticed nothing else. At the aoise of their 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 123 

feet, Renzo took Lucia's arm, pressing it in an encouraging 
manner, and went forward, almost dragging her along; for 
she trembled to such a degree, that, without his help, she 
m-ust have sunk to the ground. Entering very softly, on 
tiptoe, and holding their breath, they placed themselves 
behind the two brothers. In the mean time, Don Abbondio, 
having finished writing, read over the paper attentively, with- 
out raising his eyes ; he then folded it up, saying, * Are you 
content now ? ' and taking off his spectacles with one hand, 
handed the paper to Tonio with the other, and looked up. 
Tonio, extending his right hand to receive it, retired on one 
side, and Gervase, at a sign from him, on the other; and 
behold ! as at the shifting of a scene, Renzo and Lucia stood 
between them. Don Abbondio saw indistinctly — saw clearly 
— was terrified, astonished, enraged, buried in thought, came 
to a resolution; and all this, while Renzo uttered the words, 
* Signor Curate, in the presence of these witnesses, this is 
my wife.' Before, however, Lucia's lips could form the 
reply, Don Abbondio dropped the receipt, seized the lamp 
with his left hand, and raised it in the air, caught hold of 
the cloth with his right, and dragged it furiously off the 
table, bringing to the ground in its fall, book, paper, ink- 
stand, and sandbox; and, springing between the chair and 
the table, advanced towards Lucia. The poor girl, with her 
sweet gentle voice, trembling violently, had scarcely uttered 
the words, ' And this . . .' when Don Abbondio threw the 
cloth rudely over her head and face, to prevent her pro- 
nouncing the entire formula. Then, letting the light fall 
from his other hand, he employed both to wrap the cloth 
round her face, till she was well nigh smothered, shout- 
ing in the mean while, at the stretch of his voice, like a 
wounded bull : * Perpetua ! Perpetua ! — treachery — help ! ' 
The light, just glimmering on the ground, threw a dim and 
flickering ray upon Lucia, who, in utter consternation, made 
no attempt to disengage herself, and might be compared to 
a statue sculptured in chalk, over which the artificer had 
thrown a wet cloth. When the light died away, Don Ab- 
bondio quitted the poor girl, and went groping about to 
find the door that opened into an inner room; and having 
reached it, he entered and shut himself in, unceasingly 



124 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

exclaiming, * Perpetual treachery, help! Out of the house! 
out of the house!" 

In the other room all was confusion: Renzo, seeking to 
lay hold of the Curate, and feeling with his hands, as if 
playing at blind-man's buff, had reached the door, and kick- 
ing against it, was crying, * Open, open ; don't make such 
a noise 1 ' Lucia, calling to Renzo, in a feeble voice, said, 
beseechingly, * Let us go, let us go, for God's sake.' Tonio 
was crawling on his knees, and feeling with his hands on 
the ground to recover his lost receipt. The terrified Gervase 
was crying and jumping about, and seeking for the door 
of the stairs, so as to make his escape in safety. 

In the midst of this uproar, we cannot but stop a moment 
to make a reflection. Renzo, who was causing disturbance 
at night in another person's house, who had effected an 
entrance by stealth, and who had blockaded the master him- 
self in one of his own rooms, has all the appearance of an 
oppressor ; while in fact he was the oppressed. Don Abbon- 
dio, taken by surprise, terrified and put to flight, while 
peaceably engaged in his own affairs, appears the victim; 
when in reality it was he who did the wrong. Thus fre- 
quently goes the world ... or rather, we should say, thus 
it went in the seventeenth century. 

The besieged, finding that the enemy gave no signs of 
abandoning the enterprise, opened a window that looked into 
the churchyard, and shouted out : * Help ! help ! ' There was 
a most lovely m.oon; the shadow of the church, and, a little 
beyond, the long, sharp shadow of the bell-tower, lay dark, 
still, and well-defined, on the bright grassy level of the 
sacred enclosure: all objects were visible, almost as by day. 
But look which way you would, there appeared no sign of 
living person. Adjoining the lateral wall of the church, on 
the side next the Parsonage, was a small dwelling where 
the sexton slept. Aroused by this unusual cry, he sprang up 
in his bed, jumped out in great haste, threw open the sash 
of his little window, put his head out with his eyelids glued 
together all the while, and cried out: 'What's the matter?' 

' Run, Ambrogio ! help ! people in the house ! ' answered 
Don Abbondio. ' Coming directly,' replied he, as he drew 
in his head and shut the window; and although half asleep 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 125 

and more than half terrified, an expedient quickly occurred 
to him that would bring more aid than had been asked, 
v/ithout dragging him into the affray, whatever it might be. 
Seizing his breeches that lay upon the bed, he tucked them 
under his arm like a gala hat, and bounding down-stairs by 
a little wooden ladder, ran to the belfry, caught hold of the 
rope that was attached to the larger of the two bells, and 
pulled vigorously. 

Ton, ton, ton, ton; the peasant sprang up in his bed; 
the boy stretched in the hay-loft listened eagerly, and leapt 
upon his feet. * What's the matter? what's the matter? 
The bell's ringing ! Fire? Thieves? Banditti?' Many of 
the women advised — begged their husbands not to stir — 
to let others run; some got up and went to the window; 
those who were cowards, as if yielding to entreaty, quietly 
slipped under the bed-clothes again; while the more inquisi- 
tive and courageous sprang up and armed themselves with 
pitch- forks and pistols, to run to the uproar; others waited 
to see the end. 

But before these were all ready, and even before they 
were well awake, the noise had reached the ears, and arrested 
the attention, of some others not very far distant, who were 
both dressed and on their feet; the bravoes in one place; 
Agnese and Perpetua in another. We will first briefly relate 
the movements of the bravoes since we left them;— some 
in the old building, and some at the inn. 

The three at the inn, as soon as they saw all the doors 
shut and the street deserted, went out, pretending to be going 
some distance; but they only quietly took a short turn in the 
village to be assured that all had retired to rest ; and in fact, 
they met not one living creature, nor heard the least noise. 
They also passed, still more softly, before Lucia's little 
cottage, which was the quietest of all, since there was no one 
within. They then went direct to the old house, and reported 
their observations to Signor Griso. Hastily putting on a 
slouched hat, with a pilgrim's dress of sackcloth, scattered 
over with cockle-shells, and taking in his hand a pilgrim's 
staff, he said : * Now let us act like good bravoes ; quiet, and 
attentive to orders.' So saying, he moved forward, followed 
by the rest^ and in a few moments reached the cottage by 



126 ALESSANDEO MANZONI 

the opposite way to the one our little party had taken when 
setting out on their expedition. Griso ordered his followers 
to remain a fev/ paces behind, while he went forward along 
to explore; and finding all outside deserted and still, he 
beckoned to two of them to advance, ordered them quietly 
to scale the wall that surrounded the court-yard, and when 
they had descended, to conceal themselves in a corner behind 
a thick fig-tree that he had noticed in the morning. This 
done, he knocked gently at the door, with the intention of 
saying that he v^^as a pilgrim who had lost his way^ ,and 
begged a lodging for the night. No one replied; he knocked 
a little mxore loudly; not a whisper. He therefore called a 
third bravo, and made him descend into the yard as the other 
two had done, with orders to tmfasten the bolt inside very 
carefully, so that he might have free ingress and egress. 
All was executed with the greatest caution and the most 
prosperous success. He then went to call the rest, and 
bidding them enter with him, sent them to hide in the corner 
with the others, closed the door again very softly, placed 
two sentinels inside, and went up to the door of the house. 
Here also he knocked — waited; and long enough he might 
wait. He then as gtntly as possible opened this door ; nobody 
vv^ithin said, Who's there; no one was to be heard. Nothing 
could be better. Forward then ; * Come on,' cried he to those 
behind the fig-tree, and he entered with them into that very 
room where in the morning he had so basely obtained the 
piece of bread. Drav/ing from his pocket a piece of steel, 
a fxint, some tinder and a few matches, he lit a small lantern 
he had provided, and stepped into the next room to assure 
himself that all was quiet: no one was there. He returned, 
went to the foot of the stairs, looked up, listened; all was 
solitude and silence. Leaving two more sentinels in the 
lower room, he bid Grignapoco follov/ him, a bravo from 
the district of Bergamo, whose ofHce it was to threat en^ 
appease, and command; to be, in short, the spokesman, so 
that his dialect might give Agnese the idea that the expedi- 
tion came from his neighbourhood. With this companion 
at his side, and the rest behind him, Griso very slowly 
ascended the stairs, cursing in his heart every step that un- 
luckily creaked, every tread of these villains that made the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 127 

least noise. At last he reaches the top. Here is the danger. 
He gently pushes the door that leads into the first room; 
it yields to his touch; he opens it a little and looks in; all is 
dark ; he listens attentively, perchance he may hear a snoring, 
a breathj a stirring within ; nothing. Forward then ; he puts 
the lantern before his face, so as to see without being seen, 
he opens the dcor wide; perceives a bed; looks upon it; the 
bed is made and smooth, with the clothes turned down and 
arranged upon the pillow. He shrugs his shoulders, turns 
to his companions^, beckons to them that he is going to look 
in the other room, and that they must keep quiet where they 
were; he goes forward, uses the same precautions, meets 
with the same success. ' Whatever can this mean ? ' ex- 
claimed he boldly: 'some traitorous dog must have been 
acting as spy.' They then began to look about them with 
less caution, and to pry into every corner, turning the house 
upside down. 

While the party up-stairs were thus engaged, the two 
who were on guard at the street-door heard hasty and re- 
peated footsteps approaching along the road that led into 
the village, and imagining that whoever it was, he would 
pass by, they kept quiet, their ears, however, attentively on 
the watch. But behold ! the footsteps stopped exactly at the 
door. It was Menico arriving in great haste, sent by Father 
Cristoforo to bid the two women, for Heaven's sake, to make 
their escape as quickly as possible from their cottage, and 
take refuge in the convent, because . . . the * because ' the 
reader knows. He took hold of the handle of the latch, and 
felt it shake in his hand, unfastened and broken open. What 
is this? thought he, as he pushed open the door in some 
alarm; and putting one foot inside with considerable sus- 
picion, he felt himself seized in a moment by both arms, and 
heard two smothered voices, on his right and left, saying 
to him, in a threatening tone : * Hush ! hold your tongue, 
or you die.' On the contrary, however, he uttered a shrill 
cry, upon which one of them struck him a great blow on the 
mouth, and the other took hold of a large knife to terrify 
him. The poor child trembled like a leaf, and did not at- 
tempt a second cry; but all at once, in his stead, and with 
a far different tone, burst forth the first sound of the bell 



128 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

before described, and immediately after many thundering 
peals in quick succession. * If the cap fits, put it on/ says a 
Milanese proverb; each of the villains seemed to hear in 
these peals his name, surname, and nick-name; they let go 
of Menico's arms, hastily dropped their own, gazed at each 
other's faces in mute astonishment, and then ran into the 
house where was the bulk of their companions. Menico took 
to his legs, and fled, by way of the fields, towards the belfry, 
where he felt sure there would be some people assembled. 
On the other ruffians, who were rummaging the house from 
top to bottom, the terrible bell made the same impression; 
confused and alarmed, they ran against one another, in at- 
tempting, each one for himself, to find the shortest way of 
reaching the street-door. Though men of approved courage, 
and accustomed never to turn their backs on known peril, 
they could not stand against an indefinite danger, which had 
not been viewed at a little distance before coming upon 
them. It required all the authority of Griso to keep them 
together, so that it might be a retreat and not a flight. Just 
as a dog urging a drove of pigsi runs here and there after 
those that break the ranks, seizes one by the ears, and drags 
him into the herd, propels another with his nose, barks at 
a third that leaves the line at the same mom.ent, so the 
pilgrim laid hold of one of his troop just passing the thresh- 
old, and drew back, detained with his staff some who 
were flying they knew not whither, and finally succeeded in 
assembling them all in the middle of the court-yard. * Halt ! 
halt ! pistols in hand, daggers in readiness, all together, and 
then we'll begone. We must march in order. What care 
we for the bells ringing, if we are all together, you cowards ? 
But if we let them catch us one by one, even the villagers 
will give us it. For shame ! Fall behind, and keep together.' 
After this brief harangue, he placed himself in the front, 
and led the way out. The cottage, as we have said, was 
at the extremity of the village: Griso took the road that 
led out of it, and the rest followed him in good order. 

We will let them go, and return a step or two to find 
Agnese and Perpetua, whom we had just conducted round 
the corner of a certain road. Agnese had endeavoured to 
allure her companion as far away from Don Abbondio's 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 129 

house as possible, and up to a certain point had succeeded 
very well. But all on a sudden the servant remembered that 
she had left the door open, and she wanted to go back. 
There was nothing to be said : Agnese, to avoid exciting any 
suspicion in her mind, was obliged to turn and walk with 
her, trying however to detain her whenever she saw her 
very eager in relating the issue of such and such courtships. 
She pretended to be paying very great attention, and every 
now and then, by way of showing that she was listening, or 
to animate the flagging conversation, would say : 'Certainly : 
now I understand : that was capital : that is plain : and 
then ? and he ? and you ?' while all the time she was keeping 
up a very different discourse in her own mind. — 'I wonder 
if they are out by this time? or will they be still in the 
house? What geese we all were not to arrange any signal 
to let me know when it was over! It was really very 
stupid! But it can't be helped: and the best thing I can 
do now is to keep her loitering here as long as I can : let 
the worst come to the worst, it will only be a little time 
lost.' — Thus, with sundry pauses and various deviations 
from the straight path, they were brought back again to 
within a very short distance from Don Abbondio's house, 
which, however, could not be seen on account of the corner 
intercepting the view, and Perpetua finding herself at an 
important part of her narration, had suffered herself to be 
detained without resistance, and even without being aware 
of it, Vv^hen they suddenly heard, echoing through the vacant 
extent of the atmosphere, and the dead silence of night, the 
loud and disordered cry of Abbondio: 'Help ! help!' 

'Mercy! what has happened?' cried Perpetua, beginning 
to run. 

'What is it? what is it?' said Agnese, holding her back 
by the gown. 

'Mercy! didn't you hear?' replied she, struggling. 

'What is it? what is it?' repeated Agnese, seizing her 
by the arm. 

'Wretch of a woman!' exclaimed Perpetua, pushing her 
away to free herself and to run. At this moment, more 
distant, more shrill, more instantaneous, was heard the 
scream of Menico. 

HQ 5— Vol. 21 



130 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

' Mercy ! ' cried Agnese also ; and they ran off together. 
They had scarcely, however, gone a step, v/hen the bell 
sounded one stroke, then two, three and a succession of 
peals, such as would have stimulated them to run had there 
been no other inducemient. Perpetua arrived first hy two 
steps; while she raised her hand to the door to open it, 
behold ! it was opened from within, and on the threshold 
stood, Tonio, Gervase, Renzo, and Lucia, who having found 
the stairs had come down more rapidly than they went up; 
and at the sound o£ that terrible bell, were making their 
escape in haste to reach a place of safety. 

* What's the matter ? what's the matter ?' demanded the 
panting Perpetua of the brothers ; but they only replied with 
a violent push, and passed on. 'And you ! How ! vv^hat are 
you doing here ? ' said she to the other couple on recognizing 
them. But they too made their escape without answering 
her. Without, therefore, asking any more questions, and 
directing her steps where she was most wanted, she rushed 
impetuously into the passage, and went groping about as 
quickly as she could to fmd the stairs. 

The betrothed, still only betrothed, now fell in with 
Agnese, who arrived weary and out of breath. ' Ah ! here 
you are ! ' said she, scarcely able to speak. ' How has it 
gone ? What is the bell ringing for ? I thought I heard . . .' 

* Home ! home ! ' cried Renzo, * before anybody comes.' 
And they moved forward; but at this moment Menico ar- 
rived, running as fast as his legs could carry him; and 
recognizing them, he threw himiself in their way, and still 
all in a tremble and scarcely able to draw his breath, ex- 
claimed : * Where are 3^ou going ? back, back I This way, 
to the convent.' 

* Are you ? . , .' began Agnese. 

* What is it ? ' asked Renzo. Lucia stood by, trembling 
and silent, in utter dismay. 

* There are devils in your house,' replied Menico, panting. 
*I saw them myself: the}^ wanted to murder me: Father 
Cristoforo said so; and even you, Renzo, he said, were to 
come quickly: — and besides, I saw them myself: — it's provi- 
dential you are all here:— I will tell you the rest when we 
get out of the village.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 131 

Renzo, who had more of his senses about him than the 
rest, remembered that they had better make their escape 
one way or another before the crowds assembled; and that 
the best plan would be to do as Menico advised, nay, com- 
manded with the authority of one in terror. When once on 
their way, and out of the tumult and danger, he could ask 
a clearer explanation from the boy. * Lead the way,' said 
he to Menico ; and addressing the women, said, * Let us go 
with him.* They therefore quickly turned their steps 
towards the church, crossed the churchyard, where, by the 
favour of Heaven, there was not yet a living creature, en- 
tered a little street that ran between the church and Don 
Abbondio's house, turned into the first alley they came to 
and then took the way of the fields. 

They had not perhaps gone fifty yards, when the crowd 
began to collect in the churcli-yard, and rapidly increased 
every moment. They looked inquiringly in each other's 
faces; every one had a question to ask, but no one could 
return an answer. Those who arrived first, ran to the 
church-door; it was locked. They then ran to the belfry 
outside; and one of them, putting his mouth to a very small 
window, a sort of loop-hole, cried, * What ever is the mat- 
ter ? ' As soon as Ambrogio recognized a known voice, he 
let go of the bell-rope, and being assured by the buzz that 
many people had assembled, replied : * I'll open the door.' 
Hastily slipping on the apparel he had carried under his arm, 
he went inside the church, and opened the door. 

'What is all this hubbub?— What is it?— Where is it?—* 
Who is it?' 

* Why, who is it? ' said Ambrogio, laying one hand on the 
door-post, and with the other holding up the habiliment he 
had put on in such haste : ' W^hat ! don't you know ? People 
in the Signor Curate's house. Up, boys : help ! ' Hearing 
this, they all turned to the house, looked up, approached it in 
a body, looked up again, listened: all was quiet. Some ran 
to the street-door; it was shut and bolted; they glanced up- 
wards: not a window was open; not a whisper was to be 
heard. 

*Who is within? — Ho! Hey!— Signor Curate !— Signor 
Curate ! ' 



132 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Abbondio who, scarcely aware of the flight of the 
invaders, had retired from the window, and closed it, and 
who at this moment was reproaching Perpetua in a low 
voice for having left him alone in this confusion, was 
obliged, when he heard himself called upon by the voice 
of the assembled people, to show himself again at the win- 
dow; and when he saw the crowds that had come to his 
aid, he sorely repented having called them. 

' What has happened ? — ^What have they done to you ? — • 
Who are they ? — Where are they ? ' burst forth from fifty 
voices at once. 

* There's nobody here now ; thank you : go home again.' 

* But who has been here ? — Where are they gone ? — what 
has happened ? ' 

* Bad people, people who go about by night ; but they're 
gone: go home again: there is no longer anything: another 
time, my children : I thank you for your kindness to me.' So 
saying, he drew back, and shut the window. Some of the 
crowd began to grumble, some to joke, others to curse; some 
shrugged their shoulders and took their departure: when 
one arrived, endeavouring but scarcely able to speak from 
want of breath. It was the person who lived in the house 
opposite Agnese's cottage, who having gone to the window 
at the noise, had seen in the court-yard the assembly of 
bravoes, when Griso was striving to re-unite his scattered 
troops. On recovering his breath, he cried : * What are you 
doing here, my good fellows ? the devil isn't here ; he's down 
at the end of the village, at Agnese Mondella's house ; armed 
men are within, who seem to be murdering a pilgrim; who 
knows what the devil is doing ! ' 

' What ? — what ? — ^what ? ' and a tumultuous consultation 
began. ' We must go. — We must see. — How m.any are 
there? — How many are we? — Who are we? — The con- 
stable 1 the constable ! ' 

' I'm here,' replied the constable from the middle of the 
crowd : * I'm here ; but you must help me, you must obey. 
Quick : where is the sexton ? To the bell, to the bell. Quick ! 
Somebody to run to Lecco for help: all of you come 
here . . .' 

Some ran, some slipped between their fellows and made 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 133 

their escape ; and the tumult was at its greatest height, when 
another runner arrived who had seen Griso and his party- 
going off in such haste, and cried in turn : ' Run, my good 
fellows : thieves or banditti, who are carrying off a pilgrim : 
they are already out of the village. On ! after them ! ' At 
this information, they moved oft" in a body in great confusion 
towards the fields, without waiting their general's orders, 
and as the crowd proceeded, many of the vanguard slackened 
their pace, to let the others advance, and retired into the 
body of the battalion, those in the rear pushing eagerly for- 
ward, until at last the disorderly multitude reached their 
place of destination. Traces of the recent invasion were 
manifest: the door opened, the locks torn off; but the in- 
vaders had disappeared. The crowd entered the court- 
yard, and went to the room door ; this, too, was burst open : 
they called : 'Agnese ! Lucia ! the Pilgrim ! Where is the 
pilgrim? Stefano mxUst have been dreaming about the 
pilgrim. — No, no : Carlandrea saw him also. Ho ! hey ! pil- 
grim ! — Agnese ! Lucia ! ' No one replied. ' They've run 
away with them ! They've run away with them ! * There 
were then some who raised their voices and proposed to 
follow the robbers; said it was a heinous crime, and that 
it would be a disgrace to the village, if every villain could 
come and carry off women with impunity, as a kite carries 
off chickens from a deserted barn-floor. Then rose a fresh 
and more tumultuous consultation; but somebody, (and it 
was never certainly known who,) called out in the crowd 
that Agnese and Lucia were in safety in a house. The 
rumour spread rapidly; it gained belief, and no one spoke 
again of giving chase to the fugitives; the multitude dis- 
persed, and every one went to his own house. There v/as a 
general whispering, a noise, all over the village, a knocking 
and opening of doors, and appearing and disappearing of 
lights, a questioning of women from the windows, an 
answering from the streets. When all outside was deserted 
and quiet, the conversation continued in the houses, and 
ended at last in slumber, only to be renewed on the morrow. 
However, no other events took place, excepting that on the 
morning of that morrow, the constable was standing in 
his field, with his chin resting on his hands, his hands 



134 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

on the handle of the spade, which was half stuck into 
the ground, and one foot on the iron rest affixed to the 
handle; speculating in his mind, as he thus stood, on the 
mysteries of the past night, on what w^ould reasonably be 
expected of him, and on what course it would be best for 
him to pursue, he saw two men approaching him with very 
fierce looks, wearing long hair, like the first race of French 
kings, and otherwise bearing a strong resemblance to the 
two who, five days before, had confronted Don Abbondio, 
if, indeed they were not the same men. These with still less 
ceremony than had been used towards the Curate, intimated 
to the constable that he m.ust take right good care not to 
make a deposition to the Podesta of what had happened, not 
to tell the truth in case he was questioned, not to gossip, and 
not to encourage gossiping among the villagers, as he val- 
ued his life. 

Our fugitives walked a little way at a quick pace in 
silence, one or other occasionally looking back to see if they 
were followed, all of them wearied by the fatigue of the 
flight, hy the anxiety and suspense they had endured, by 
grief at their ill-success, and by confused apprehensions of 
new and unknown danger. Their terror, too, was increased 
by the sound of the bell v/hich still continued to follow 
them, and seemed to become heavier and more hoarse the 
further they left it behind them, acquiring every moment 
something more mournful and ominous in its tone. At last 
the ringing ceased. Reaching then a deserted field, and not 
hearing a whisper around, they slackened their pace, and 
Agnese, taking breath, v/as the first to break the silence, by 
asking Renzo how matters had gone, and Menico, what was 
the demon in their house. Renzo briefly related his melan- 
choly story; and then, all of them turning to the child, he 
informed them more expressly of the Father's advice, and 
narrated what he had himself witnessed and the hazards 
he had run, which too surely confirmed the advice. His 
auditors, however, understood more of this than did the 
speaker; they were seized with new horror at the discovery, 
and for a moment paused in their walk, exchanging mutual 
looks of fear; then with an unanimous movement they laid 
their hands, some on the head, others on the shoulders of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 135 

the boy, as if to caress him, and tacitly to thank him for 
having been to them a guardian angel; at the same time 
signifying the compassion they felt for him, and almost 
apologizing for the terror he had endured and the danger 
he had undergone on their account. ' Now go home, that 
your family may not be anxious about you any longer,' said 
Agnese; and remembering the two promised parpagliole, 
she took out four, and gave them to him, adding : ' That will 
do; pray the Lord that we may meet again soon; and then 
. . / Renzo gave him a new herlinga, and begged him to 
say nothing of the message he had brought from the Father : 
Lucia again caressed him, bade him farewell with a sorrow- 
ful voice, and the boy, almost overcome, wished them good- 
bye, and turned back. The melancholy trio continued their 
walk, the women taking the lead, and Renzo behind to act 
as guard. Lucia clung closely to her mother's arm, kindly 
and dexterously avoiding the proffered assistance of the 
youth at the difficult passes of this unfrequented path; feel- 
ing ashamed of herself, even in such troubles, for having 
already been so long and so familiarly alone with him., while 
expecting in a few moments to be his wife. Now that this 
vision had been so sorrovv^'fully dispelled, she repented having 
proceeded thus far; and, amidst so may causes of fear, she 
feared even for her modesty, — not such modesty as arises 
from the sad knowledge of evil, but for that which is igno- 
rant of its own existence; — like the dread of a child who 
trembles in the dark, he knows not why. 

*And the house ? ' suddenly exclaimed Agnese. But how- 
ever important the object might be which extorted this ex- 
clamation, no one replied, because no one could do so satis- 
factorily. They therefore continued their walk in silence, 
and, in a little while, reached the square before the church 
of the convent. 

Renzo advanced to the door of the church, and gently 
pushed it open. The moon that entered through the aper- 
ture, fell upon the pale face and silvery beard of Father 
Cristoforo, who was standing here expecting them; an^ 
having seen that no one was missing, * God be praised ! ' 
said he, beckoning to them to enter. By his side stood 
another Capuchin, the lay sexton, whom he had persuaded, 



136 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

by prayers and arguments, to keep vigil with him, to leave 
the door ajar, and to remain there on guard to receive 
these poor threatened creatures; and it required nothing 
short of the authority of the Father, and of his fame as a 
saint, to persuade the layman to so inconvenient, perilous, 
and irregular a condescension. When they were inside, 
Father Cristoforo very softly shut the door. Then the 
sexton could no longer contain himself, and taking the 
Father aside, whispered in his ear ; * But Father, Father ! 
at night ... in church . . . with women . . . shut 
. . . the rule . . . but Father ! ' And he shook his 
head, while thus hesitatingly pronouncing these words. 
Just see! thought Father Cristoforo; if it were a pursued 
robber, Friar Fazio would make no difficulty in the world; 
and a poor innocent escaping from the jaws of a wolf . . . 
' Omnia mnnda mundis/ added he, turning suddenly to Friar 
Fazio, and forgetting that he did not understand Latin. 
But this forgetfulness was exactly what produced the right 
effect. If the Father had begun to dispute and reason. 
Friar Fazio would not have failed to urge opposing argu- 
ments; and no one knows how and when the discussion 
would have come to an end; but at the sound of these 
weighty words of a mysterious signification, and so resolutely 
uttered, it seemed to him that in them must be contained 
the solution of all his doubts. He acquiesced, saying, ' Very 
well; you know more about it than I do.' 

'Trust me, then,' replied Father Cristoforo; and by the 
dim light of the lamp burning before the altar, he approached 
the refugees, who stood waiting in suspense, and said to 
them, ' My children, thank God, who has delivered you from 
so great a danger ! Perhaps at this moment . . . ' and 
here he began to explain more fully what he had hinted by 
the little messenger, little suspecting that they knew more 
than he, and supposing that Menico had found them quiet 
in their own house, before the arrival of the ruffians. No- 
body undeceived him, not even Lucia, whose conscience, how- 
ever, was all the while secretly reproaching her for practis- 
ing such dissimulation with so good a man; but it was a 
night of embarrassment and dissimulation. 

'After this/ continued he, *you must feel, my children. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 137 

that the village is no longer safe for you. It is yours, 
you were born there, and you have done no wrong to any 
one; but God v/ills it so. It is a trial, my children; bear 
it with patience and faith, without indulging in rancour, 
and rest assured there will come a day when you will 
think yourselves happy that this has occurred. I have 
thought of a refuge for you, for the present. Soon, I hope, 
you may be able to return in safety to your own house; 
at any rate, God will provide what is best for you; and I 
assure you, I will be careful not to prove unworthy of the 
favour He has bestowed upon me, in choosing me as His 
minister, in the service of you. His poor, yet loved afflicted 
ones. You,' continued he, turning to the two women, 'can 
stay at * * *. Here you will be far enough from every 
danger, and at the same time not far from your own home. 
There seek out our convent, ask for the guardian, and give 
him this letter; he will be to you another Father Cristo- 
foro. And you, my Renzo, must put yourself in safety 
from the anger of others, and your own. Carry this letter 
to Father Bonaventura da Lodi, in our convent of the 
Porta Orientale, at Milan. He will be a father to you, will 
give you directions, and find you work, till you can return 
and live more peaceably. Go to the shore of the lake, near 
the mouth of the Bione, a river not far from this mon- 
astery. Here you will see a boat waiting ; say " Boat ! " it 
will be asked you " For whom ? " And you must reply, 
" San Francesco." The boat will receive you, and carry 
you to the other side, where you will find a cart, that will 
take you straight to * * "^Z 

If any one asks how Father Cristoforo had so quickly 
at his disposal these means of transport by land and water, 
it will show that he does not know the influence and power 
of a Capuchin held in reputation as a saint. 

It still remained to decide about the care of the houses. 
The Father received the keys, pledging himself to deliver 
them to whomsoever Renzo and Agnese should name. 
The latter, in delivering up hers, heaved a deep sigh, re- 
membering that, at that moment, the house was open, that 
the devil had been there, and who knew what remained to 
be taken care of I 



138 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* Before you go/ said the Father, ' let us pray all to- 
gether that the Lord may be with j^ou in this your journey, 
and for ever ; and, above all, that He may give you strength, 
and a spirit of love, to enable you to desire whatever He 
has willed.' So saying, he knelt down in the middle of the 
church, and they all followed his example. After praying 
a few moments in silence, with low but distinct voice he 
pronounced these words : * We beseech Thee, also, for the 
unhappy person who has brought us to this state. We should 
be unworthy of Thy mercy, if we did not, from our hearts, 
implore it for him; he needs it, O Lord! We, in our sor- 
row, have this consolation, that we are in the path where 
Thou hast placed us; we can offer Thee our griefs, and 
they m.ay become our gain. But he is Thine enemy ! Alas, 
wretched man! he is striving with Thee! Have mercy 
on him, O Lord; touch his heart; reconcile him to Thyself, 
and give him all those good things we could desire for our- 
selves/ 

Rising then in haste, he said, ' Come, my children, you 
have fiQ time to lose; God defend you; His angel go with 
you ; — f arewefl f * And while they set off with that emotion 
which cannot find words, and manifests itself without them, 
the Father added, in an agitated tone, ' My heart tells me 
we shall meet again soon.' 

Certainly, the hearty to those who listen to it, has always 
something to say on what will happen; but what did his 
heart know? Very little, truly, of what had already hap- 
pened. 

Without waiting a reply, Father Cristoforo retired with 
hasty steps; the travellers took their departure; and Father 
Fazio shut the door after them, bidding them farewell with 
even his voice a little faltering. 

The trio slowly made their way to the shore they had 
been directed to ; where they espied the boat, and exchanging 
the pass-word, stepped in. The waterman, planting one oar 
on the land, pushed off ; then took up the other oar, and row- 
ing with both hands, pulled out and made towards the op- 
posite beach. Not a breath of wind was stirring; the lake 
lay bright and smooth, and would have appeared motionless 
but for the tremulous and gentle undulation of the moon- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 139 

beams, which gleamed upon it from the zenith. No sounds 
were heard but the muffled and slowly measured breaking 
of the surge upon the pebbly shore, the more distant gur- 
gling of the troubled waters dashing among the piles of the 
bridge, and the even plash of the light sculls, as, rising with a 
sharp sound of the dripping blade, and quickly plunged 
again beneath, they cut the azure surface of the lake. The 
waves, divided by the prow^ and re-uniting behind the little 
bark, tracked out a curling line, v/hich extended itself to 
the shore. The silent travellers, with their faces turned 
backwards, gazed upon the mountains and the country, 
illumined by the pale light of the moon, and diversified here 
and there with vast shadows. They could distinguish the 
villages, the houses, and the little cabins: the palace of Don 
Rodrigo, with its square tower, rising above the group of 
huts at the base of the promontory, looked like a savage 
standing in the dark, and meditating some evil deed, while 
keeping guard over a company of reclining sleepers. Lucia 
saw it and shuddered; then drawing her eye along the 
declivity till she reached her native village, she fixed her gaze 
on its extremitv, sought for her own cottas:e, traced out the 
thick head of the fig-tree which towered above the wall of 
the court-yard^ discovered the window of her own room; 
and, being seated in the bottom of the boat, she leaned her 
elbow on the edge, laid her forehead on her arm, as if 
she were sleeping, and wept in secret. 

Farewell, ye mountains, rising from the waters, and point- 
ing to the heavens ! ye varied summits, familiar to him v/ho 
has been brought up among you, and impressed upon his 
mind as clearly as the countenance of his dearest friends ! 
ye torrents, v/hose m.urmur he recognizes like the sound 
of the voices of home ! ye villages, scattered and glistening 
on the declivity, like flocks of grazing sheep ! farewell ! 
How mournful is the step of him who, brought up amidst 
your scenes, is compelled to leave you ! Even in the imagin- 
ation of one who willingly departs, attracted by the hope of 
making a fortune elsewhere, the dreams of wealth at this 
moment lose their charms; he wonders he could form such 
a resolution, and could even now turn back, but for the hope 
of one day returning with a rich abundance. As he ad- 



140 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

vances into the plain, his eye becomes wearied with its 
uniform extent; the atmosphere feels heavy and lifeless; he 
sadly and listlessly enters the busy cities, where houses 
crowded upon houses, and streets intersecting streets, seem 
to take away his breath; and, before edifices admired by the 
stranger, he recalls with restless longing the fields of his own 
country, and the cottage he had long ago set his heart upon, 
and which he resolves to purchase when he returns en- 
riched to his ov^rn mountains. 

But what must he feel who has never sent a passing 
wish beyond these mountains, who has arranged among them 
all his designs for the future, and is driven far away by 
an adverse power ! who, suddenly snatched away from his 
dearest habits, and thwarted in his dearest hopes, leaves 
these mountains to go in search of strangers whom he 
never desired to know, and is unable to look forward to 
a fixed time of return ! 

Farewell ! native cottage, where, indulging in unconscious 
thought, one learnt to distinguish from the noise of com- 
mon footsteps, the approach of a tread expected with mys- 
terious timidity ! Farewell ! thou cottage, still a stranger, 
but so often hastily glanced at, not without a blush, in pass- 
ing, in which the mind took delight to figure to itself the 
tranquil and lasting home of a wife ! Farewell ! my church, 
where the heart was so often soothed while chanting the 
praises of the Lord ; where the preparatory rite of betrothal 
was performed; where the secret sighing of the heart was 
solemnly blessed and love was inspired, and one felt a hal- 
lowing influence around, farewell ! He who imparted to you 
such gladness is everywhere; and He never disturbs the 
joy of his children, but to prepare them for one more cer- 
tain and durable. 

Of such a nature, if not exactly these, were the reflec- 
tions of Lucia; and not very dissimilar were those of the 
two other wanderers, while the little bark rapidly approached 
the right bank of the Adda. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE striking of the boat against the shore aroused 
Lucia, who, after secretly drying her tears, raised her 
head as if she were just awaking. Renzo jumped out 
first, and gave his hand successively to Agnese and Lucia; 
and then they all turned, and sorrowfully thanked the boat- 
man. * Nothing, nothing ; we are placed here to help one 
another,' answered he; and he withdrew his hand, almost 
with a movement of horror, as if it had been proposed to him 
to rob, when Renzo tried to slip in one or two of the coins 
he had about him, and which he had brought in his pocket 
with the intention of generously requiting Don Abbondio, 
when he should, though against his will, have rendered the 
desired assistance. The cart stood waiting for them; the 
driver saluted the three expected travellers, and bid them 
get in; and then, with his voice and a stroke of the whip, he 
started the animal and set forward. 

Our author does not describe this nocturnal journey, and 
is silent as to the name of the town to which the little com- 
pany were directing their steps ; or rather, he expressly says, 
he will not give the name. In the course of the story, the 
reason of all this mystery appears. The adventures of 
Lucia in this abode involve a dark intrigue of a person be- 
longing to a family still powerful, as it appears, at the time 
our author wrote. To account for the strange conduct of 
this person in the particular instance he relates, he has 
been obliged chiefly to recount her early life; and there the 
family makes the figure which our readers will see. Hence 
the poor man's great circumspection. And yet (how people 
sometimes forget themselves!) he himself, without being 
aware of it, has opened a way of discovering, with certainty, 
what he had taken such great pains to keep concealed. In 
one part of the account, which we will omit as not being 
necessary to the integrity of the story, he happens to say 
that this place was an ancient and noble borough, which 
wanted nothing but the name to be a city; he then inad* 

141 



142 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

vertently mentions that the river Lambro runs through it: 
and, again, that it was the seat of an arch-presbyter. With 
these indications, there is not in all Europe a moderately^ 
learned man, who will not instantly exclaim, * Monza ! ' We 
could also propose some very well-founded conjectures in 
the name of the family; but, although the object of our con- 
jectures has been some timiC extinct, we consider it better 
to be silent on this head, not to run the risk of wronging even 
the dead, and to leave scm.e subject of research for the 
learned. 

Our travellers reached Monza shortly after sun-rise; the 
driver turned into an inn, and, as if at home in the place 
and v/eli acquainted with the landlord, ordered a room for 
the newly-arrived guests, and accompanied them thither. 
After many acknowledgments, Renzo tried to induce him 
to receive some reward; but he, like the boatman, had in 
view another, more distant, but more abundant recompense: 
he put his hands behind him, and making his escape went to 
look after his horse. 

After such a night as we have described, and as every one 
may imagine, the greatest part spent in mournful thoughts, 
with the constant dread of some unforeseen misfortune, 
in the melancholy silence of night, in the sharpness of a 
more than autumnal air, and amid the frequent jolts of the 
incommodious vehicle, which rudely shook the weary frames 
of our travellers, they soon felt themselves overpowered 
with sleep, and availed themselves of a sofa that stood in 
an adjoining room to take a little repose. They then par- 
took together of a frugal meal, such as the poverty of the 
times would allow, and scanty in proportion to the contingent 
wants of an uncertain future, and their ov/n slender appetite. 
One after another they remembered the banquet which, two 
days before, they had hoped to enjoy; and each in turn heaved 
a deep sigh. Renzo would gladly have stayed there, at least 
lor that day, to have seen the tv/o women provided for, and 
to have given them his services, but the Father had recom- 
mended them to send him on his way as quickly as possible. 
They alleged, therefore, these orders, and a hundred other 
reasons ;— people would gossip — the longer the separation 
Tvas delayed, the more painful it would be— he could come 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 143 

again soon, to give and learn news; — so that, at last, tlie 
youth determined to go. Their plans were then more 
definitely arranged; Lucia did not attempt to hide her tears; 
Renzo could scarcely restrain his; and, warmly pressing 
Agnese's hand, he said, in an almost choked voice, 'Fare- 
well, till we meet again ! ' and set oft. 

The women would have found themselves much at a loss, 
had it not been for the good driver, who had orders to guide 
them to the convent, and to give them any direction and assist- 
ance they might stand in need of. With this escort, then, they 
took their way to the convent, which, as every one knows, 
was a short distance outside the town of Monza. Arrived 
at the door, their conductor rang the bell, and asked for the 
guardian, who quickly made his appearance, and received 
the letter. 

* Oh brother Cristoforo ! ' said he, recognizing the hand- 
writing, the tone of his voice and the expression of his face 
evidently indicating that he uttered the name of an intimate 
friend. It might easily be seen, too, that our good friar had 
in this letter warmly recom.mended the women, and related 
their case with much feeling, for the guardian kept making 
gestures of surprise and indignation, and raising his eyes from 
the paper, he would fix them upon the women w^th a certain 
expression of pity and interest. When he had finished read- 
ing it, he stood for a little while thoughtful, and then said to 
him.self, * There is no one but the Signora — if the Signora 
would take upon herself this charge.' He then drew Agnese 
a few steps aside in the little square before the convent ; asked 
her a few questions, which she answered satisfactorily, and 
then, turning towards Lucia, addressed them both : ' My good 
women, I will try; and I hope I shall be able to find you a 
retreat more than secure, more than honourable, until it shall 
please God to provide for you in some better way. Will you 
come with me ? ' 

The women reverently bowed assent, and the friar con- 
tinued: ' Come with me to the convent of the Signora. Keep, 
however, a few steps behind me, because people delight to 
speak evil, and no one knows what fine stories they would 
make out, if they were to see the Father-guardian walking 
with a beautiful young girl . . . with women, I mean to say/ 



144 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

So saying, he moved forward. Lucia blushed, their guide 
smiled, and glanced at Agnese, who betrayed, also, a mo- 
mentary smile, and when the friar had gone a few steps, they 
followed him at about ten yards distance. The women then 
asked their guide what they did not dare say to the Father- 
guardian, who was the Signora. 

* The Signora,' replied he, ' is a nun ; but she is not like 
the other nuns. Not that she is either the Abbess, or the 
Prioress ; for, from what they say, she is one of the youngest 
there: but she is from Adam's rib, and she is of an ancient 
and high family in Spain, where some of them now are 
princes ; and therefore they call her the Signora, to show that 
she is a great lady : and all the country call her by this name, 
for they say there never was her equal in this monastery 
before ; and even now, down at Milan, her family ranks very 
high, and is held in great esteem ; and in Monza still more so, 
because her father, though he does not live here, is the first 
man in the country ; so that she can do what she pleases in the 
convent ; and all the country-people bear her a great respect ; 
and if she undertakes a business she is sure to succeed in it ; 
so that if this good monk before us is fortunate enough to get 
you into her hands, and she takes you under her protection, I 
dare venture to say you will be as safe as at the altar.' 

On reaching the gate of the town, flanked at that time by 
an ancient ruined tower, and a fragment of a demolished 
castle, which, perhaps, some few of my readers m.ay still re- 
member to have seen standing, the guardian stopped, and 
looked behind to see if they were following; he then passed 
through, and went on to the convent, and when he reached it, 
stopped again at the doorway, and waited for the little party. 
He then begged the guide to come again to the convent, to 
take back a reply; he promised to do so, and took his leave 
of the wom.en, who loaded him with thanks and messages to 
Father Cristoforo. The guardian, bidding them go into the 
first court of the monastery, ushered them into the apartm^ents 
of the portress, to whom he recommended them, and went 
forward alone to make his request. After a few moments, he 
returned, and, with a joyful manner, told them to come with 
him; and his reappearance was just a-propos, for they were 
beginning to find it difficult to ward off the pressing inter- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 145 

rogations of the portress. While traversing the inner court, 
the Father instructed the women how they must behave to 
the Signora. * She is well-disposed towards you/ said he, 
* and may be of much service to you. Be humble and re- 
spectful, reply with frankness to the questions she may please 
to put; and when you are not questioned, leave it to me.' 
They then passed through a lower room to the parlour of the 
convent; and before entering, the guardian, pointing to the 
door, said to the women in an undertone, ' She is there ;' 
as if to remind them of the lessons he had been giving. 
Lucia, who had never before seen a monastery, looked round 
the room, on entering, for the Signora to whom she was to 
make obeisance, and perceiving no one, she stood perplexed; 
but seeing the Father advance, and Agnese following, she 
looked in that direction, and observed an almost square aper- 
ture, like a half-window, grated with two large thick iron 
bars, distant from each other about a span, and behind this a 
nun was standing. Her countenance, which showed her to 
be about twenty-five years old, gave the impression, at a first 
glance, of beauty, but of beauty worn, faded, and, one might 
almost say, spoiled. A black veil, stiffened and stretched 
quite flat upon her head, fell on each side and stood out a 
little way from her face; under the veil, a very white linen 
band half covered a forehead of different but not inferior 
whiteness; a second band, in folds, down each side of the 
face, crossed under the chin, encircled the neck, and was 
spread a little over the breast to conceal the opening of a 
black dress. But this forehead was wrinkled every now and 
then, as if by some painful emotion, accompanied by the rapid 
movement of two jet-black eyebrows. Sometimes she would 
fix two. very dark eyes on another's face with a piercing look 
of haughty investigation, and then again v^^ould hastily lower 
them, as if seeking a hiding-place. One moment, an attentive 
observer would imagine they were soliciting affection, inter- 
course, pity ; at another, he would gather thence a momentary 
revelation of ancient and smothered hatred — of som.e inde- 
scribable, fierce disposition; and when they remained im- 
movably fixed without attention, some might have imagined 
a proud indifference, while others would have suspected the 
labouring of some secret thought, the overpov/ering do- 



146 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

minion of an idea familiar to her mind, and more engrossing 
than surrounding objects. Her pale cheeks were delicately 
formed, but much altered and shrunk by a gradual extenua- 
tion. Her lips, though scarcely suffused v/ith a faint tinge of 
the rose, stood out in contrast with this paleness, and, like 
her eyes, their movements were sudden, quick, and full of 
expression and mystery. The well-formed tallness of her 
figure disappeared in the habitual stoop of her carriage, or 
was disfigured by certain quick and irregular starts, which 
betrayed too resolute an air for a woman, still more for a 
nun. In her very dress, there was a display of either par- 
ticularity or negligence, which betokened a nun of singular 
character; her head-dress was arranged with a kind of 
worldly carefulness, and from under the band around her 
head the end of a curl of glossy black hair appeared upon her 
temple, betraying either forgetfulness, or contempt of the 
rule which required them always to keep the hair closely 
shaven. It was cut off first at the solemn ceremony of their 
admission. 

These things made no impression on the minds of the 
two women; inexperienced in distinguishing nun from 
nun; and the Father-guardian had so frequently seen the 
Signora before, that he was already accustomed, like 
many others, to the singularities in manner and dress which 
she displayed. 

She was standing, as we have said, near the grated win- 
dow, languidly leaning on it with one hand, twining her 
delicately-white fingers in the interstices, and with her 
head slightly bent downwards, surveying the advancing party. 
* Reverend mother and most illustrious Signora,' said the 
guardian, bowing his head, and laying his right hand upon 
his breast, 'this is the poor young girl to whom you have 
encouraged me to hope you will extend your valuable pro- 
tection; and this is her m.other.' 

Agnese and Lucia reverently curtseyed: the Signora 
beckoning to them with her hand that she was satisfied, 
said, turning to the Father, ' It is fortunate for me that 
I have it in my power to serve our good friends the 
Capuchin Fathers in any matter. But,' continued she, ' will 
you tell me a little more particularly the case of this young 



I PROMESSI SFOSI 147 

girl, so that I may know better what I ought to do for 
her?' 

Lucia blushed, and held down her head. 

* You must know, reverend mother , . .' began Agnese \ 
but the guardian silenced her with a glance, and replied, 
'This young girl, most illustrious lady, has been recom- 
mended to me, as I told you, by a brother friar. She has 
been compelled secretly to leave her country to avoid great 
dangers, and wants an asylum for some time where she 
may live retired, and where no one will dare molest her, 
even when . . / 

*What dangers?' interrupted the Signora. 'Be good 
enough. Father, not to tell me the case so enigmatically. 
You know that we nuns like to hear stories minutely/ 

* They are dangers,' replied the guardian, * which scarcely 
ought to be mentioned ever so delicately in the pure ears 
of the reverend mother . . .' 

' Oh, certainly ! ' replied the Signora, hastily, and slightly 
colouring. Was it modesty? One who would have ob- 
served the momentary expression of vexation which 
accom.panied this blush might have entertained some doubt 
of it, especially if he had compared it with that which dif- 
fused itself from time to time on the cheeks of Lucia. 

' It is enough,' resumed the guardian, ' that a powerful 
nobleman . . . not all of the great people of the world use 
the gifts of God to his glory and for the good of their neigh- 
bours, as your illustrious ladyship has done ... a powerful 
cavalier, after having for some time persecuted this poor 
girl with base flatteries, seeing that they were useless, had 
the heart openly to persecute her by force, so that the poor 
thing has been obliged to fly from her home.' 

' Come near, young girl,' said the Signora to Lucia, beck- 
oning to her v/ith her hand. ' I know that the Father- 
guardian is truth itself; but no one can be better informed 
in this business than yourself. It rests with you to say 
whether this cavalier was an odious persecutor,' 

As to approaching, Lucia instantly obeyed, but to answer, 
was another matter. An inquiry on this subject even when 
proposed by an equal, would have put her into confusion; 
but made by the Signora, and with a certain air of malicious 



148 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

idoubt, it deprived her of courage to reply. ' Signora . . . 
mother . . . reverend . „ .' stammered she, but she seemed 
to have nothing more to say. Agnese, therefore, as being 
certainly the best informed after her, here thought herself 
authorized to come to her succour. ' Most illustrious Signora,' 
said she, * I can bear full testim^ony that my daughter hated 
this cavalier, as the devil hates holy water. I should say, 
he is the devil himself; but you will excuse me if I speak 
improperly, for we are poor folk, as God made us. The 
case is this: that my poor girl was betrothed to a youth in 
her own station, a steady man, and one who fears God; and 
if the Signor-Curato had been what he ought to be . . . 
I know I am speaking of a religious man, but Father Cris- 
toforo, a friend here of the Father-guardian, is a religious 
man as well as he; and that's the man that's full of kind- 
ness; and if he were here he could attest . . .' 

* You are very ready to speak without being spoken to,' 
interrupted the Signora, with a haughty and angry look, 
which made her seem almost hideous. * Hold your tongue ! 
I know well enough that parents are always ready with an 
answer in the name of their children ! ' 

Agnese drew back, mortified, giving Lucia a look which 
meant to say, See what I get by your not knowing how to 
speak. The guardian then signified to her, with a glance 
and a movement of his head, that now was the moment to 
arouse her courage, and not to leave her poor mother in 
such a plight. 

* Reverend lady,' said Lucia, ' what my mother has told 
you is exactly the truth. The youth who paid his addresses 
to me' (and here she coloured crimson) 'I chose with 
my own good will. Forgive me, if I speak too boldly, but 
it is that you may not think ill of my mother. And as to 
this Signor, (God forgive him!) I would rather die than 
fall into his hands. And if you do us the kindness to put 
us in safety, since we are reduced to the necessity of asking 
a place of refuge, and of inconveniencing worthy people, 
(but God's will be done!) be assured, lady, that no one 
will pray for you more earnestly and heartily than we poor 
women.' 

*1 believe yon/ said the Signora, in a softened tone. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 149 

^But I should like to talk to you alone. Not that I require 
further information, nor any other motives to attend to 
the wishes of the Father-guardian/ added she, hastily, and 
turning towards him with studied politeness. * Indeed,' 
continued she, ' I have already thought about it ; and this 
is the best plan I can think of for the present. The portress 
of the convent has, a few days ago, settled her last daugh- 
ter in the world. These women can occupy the room she 
has left at liberty, and supply her place in the trifling services 
she performed in the monastery. In truth . . . ' and here 
she beckoned to the guardian to approach the grated win- 
dow, and continued, in an under-voice : * In truth, on account 
of the scarcity of the times, it was not intended to substi- 
tute any one in the place of that young woman; but I will 
speak to the Lady Abbess; and at a word from me ... at 
the request of the Father-guardian ... in short, I give the 
place as a settled thing.' 

The guardian began to return thanks, but the Signora 
interrupted him : * There is no need of ceremony : in a case 
of necessity I should not hesitate to apply for the assistance 
of the Capuchin Fathers. In fact/ continued she, with a 
smile, in which appeared an indescribable air of mockery 
and bitterness ; * in fact, are we not brothers and sisters ? ' 

So saying, she called a lay-sister, (two of whom were, 
by a singular distinction, assigned to her private service,) 
and desired her to inform the Abbess of the circumstance; 
then sending for the portress to the door of the cloister, 
she concerted with her and Agnese the necessary arrange- 
ments. Dism-issing her, she bade farewell to the guardian, 
and detained Lucia. The guardian accompanied Agnese to 
the door, giving her new instructions by the way, and went 
to write his letter of report to his friend Cristoforo. *An 
extraordinary character, that Signora ! ' thought he, as he 
walked home : * Very curious ! But one who knows the right 
way to go to work, can make her do whatever he pleases. 
My good friend Cristoforo certainly does not expect that 
I can serve him so quickly and so well. That noble fellow ! 
There is no help for it: he must always have something in 
hand. But he is doing good. It is well for him this time^. 
that he has found a friend who has brought the affair to a 



150 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

good conclusion in a twinkling, without so much noise, s@ 
much preparation, so much ado. This good Cristoforo will 
surely be satisfied, and see that even we here are good for 
something.' 

The Signora, who, in the presence of a Capuchin of ad- 
vanced age, had studied her actions and words, now, when 
left tete-a-tete with an inexperienced country girl, no longer 
attempted to restrain herself; and her conversation became 
by degrees so strange, that, instead of relating it, we think 
it better briefly to narrate the previous history of this un- 
happy person : so much, that is, as will suffice to account for 
the unusual and mysterious conduct we have witnessed in 
her, and to explain the mxotives of her behaviour in the facts 
which we shall be obliged to relate. 

She was the youngest daughter of the Prince * * *, a 
Milanese nobleman, who was esteemed one of the richest 
men of the city. But the unbounded idea he entertained of 
his title made his property appear scarcely sufficient, nay, 
even too limited to maintain a proper appearance; and all 
his attention was turned towards keeping it, at least, such as 
it was, in one line, so far as it depended upon himself. How 
many children he had does not appear from history: it 
merely records that he had designed all the younger branches 
of both sexes for the cloister that he might leave his property 
entire to the eldest son, destined to perpetuate the family: 
that is, bring up children that he might torment himself 
in tormenting them after his father's example. Our un- 
happy Signora was yet unborn when her condition was irre- 
vocably determined upon. It only remained to decide 
whether she should be a monk or a nun, a decision, for 
which, not her assent, but her presence, was required. When 
she was born, the Prince, her father, wishing to give her a 
name that would always immediately suggest the idea of 
a cloister and which had been borne by a saint of high 
family, called her Gertrude. Dolls dressed like nuns were 
the first playthings put into her hands ; then images in nuns' 
habits, accompanying the gift with admonitions to prize 
them highly, as very precious things, and with that affirmative 
interrogation, * Beautiful, eh?' When the Prince, or the 
Princess, or the young prince, the only one of the sons 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 151 

brought tip at home, would represent the happy prospects 
of the child, it seemed as if they could find no other way of 
expressing their ideas than by the words, * What a lady- 
abbess ! * No one, however, directly said to her, ' You must 
become a nun.' It was an intention understood and touched 
upon incidentally in every conversation relating to her future 
destiny. If at any time the little Gertrude indulged in re- 
bellious or imperious behaviour, to which her natural dis- 
position easily inclined her, ' You are a naughty little girl,* 
they would say to her : * this behaviour is very unbecoming. 
When you are a lady-abbess, you shall then command with 
the rod: you can then do as you please.' On another occa- 
sion, the Prince reproving her for her too free and familiar 
manners, into which she easily fell : * Hey ! hey ! ' he cried ; 
*they are not becoming to one of your rank. If you wish 
some day to engage the respect that is due to you, learn 
from henceforth to be more reserved: remember you ought 
to be in everything the first in the monastery, because you 
carry your rank wherever you go.' 

Such language imbued the mind of the little girl with the 
implicit idea that she was to be a nun ; but her father's words 
had more effect upon her than all the others put together. 
The manners of the Prince were habitually those of an 
austere master, but when treating of the future prospects 
of his children, there shone forth in every word and tone 
an immovability of resolution which inspired the idea of a 
fatal necessity. 

At six years of age, Gertrude was placed for education, 
and still more as a preparatory step towards the vocation 
imposed upon her, in the monastery where we have seen 
feer; and the selection of the place was not without design. 
The worthy guide of the two women has said that the father 
of the Signora was the first man in Monza; and, comparing 
this testimony, whatever it may be worth, with some other 
indications which our anonymous author unintentionally 
suffers to escape here and there, we may very easily assert 
that he Vs/^as the feudal head of that country. However it 
may be, he enjoyed here very great authority, and thought 
that here, better than elsewhere, his daughter would be 
treated with that distinction and deference which might 



152 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

induce her to choose this monastery as her perpetual abode. 
Nor was he deceived : the then abbess and several intriguing 
nuns, who had the management of affairs, finding them- 
selves entangled in some disputes with another monastery, 
and with a noble family of the country, were very glad 
of the acquisition of such a support, received with much 
gratitude the honour bestowed upon them, and fully entered 
into the intentions of the Prince concerning the permanent 
settlement of his daughter; intentions on every account en- 
tirely consonant with their interests. Immediately on Ger- 
trude's entering the monastery, she was called by Antono- 
masia, the Signorina.^ A separate place was assigned her 
at table, and a private sleeping apartment; her conduct was 
proposed as an example to others; indulgences and caresses 
were bestowed upon her without end, accompanied with that 
respectful familiarity so attractive to children when observed 
in those whom they see treating other children with an 
habitual air of superiority. Not that all the nuns had con- 
spired to draw the poor child into the snare; many there 
were of simple and undesigning minds, who would have 
shrunk with horror from the thought of sacrificing a child 
to interested views; but all of them being intent on their 
several individual occupations, some did not notice all these 
manoeuvres, others did not discern how dishonest they were; 
some abstained from looking into the matter, and others 
were silent rather than give useless offence. There was one, 
too, who, remembering how she had been induced by sim- 
ilar arts to do what she afterwards repented of, felt a deep 
compassion for the poor little innocent, and showed that 
compassion by bestowing on her tender and melancholy 
caresses, which she was far from suspecting were tending to- 
wards the same result; and thus the affair proceeded. Per- 
haps it might have gone on thus to the end, if Gertrude had 
been the only little girl in the monastery; but among her 
school-fellows, there were some who knew they were de- 
signed for marriage. The little Gertrude, brought up with 
high ideas of her superiority, talked very magnificently of 
her future destiny as abbess and principal of the monastery; 
she wished to be an object of envy to the others on every 

iThe young lady. 



I PROMESSI SPOSX 153 

account, and saw with astonishment and vexation that 
some of them paid no attention to all her boasting. To the 
majestic, but circumscribed and cold, images the headship 
of a monastery could furnish, they opposed the varied and 
bright pictures of a husband, guests, routs, towns, tourna- 
ments, retinues, dress, and equipages. Such glittering 
visions roused in Gertrude's mind that excitement and ar- 
dour which a large basket-full of freshly gathered flowers 
would produce if placed before a bee-hive. Her parents and 
teachers had cultivated and increased her natural vanity, 
to reconcile her to the cloisters; but when this passion 
was excited by ideas so much calculated to stimulate it, she 
quickly entered into them with a more lively and spontane- 
ous ardour. That she might not be below her companions, 
and influenced at the same time by her new turn of mind, 
she replied that, at the time of the decision, no one could 
compel her to take the veil without her consent; that she 
too, could marry, live in a palace, enjoy the world, and that 
better than any of them; that she could if she wished it, 
that she would if she wished it; and that, in fact, she did 
wish it. The idea of the necessity of her consent, which 
hitherto had been, as it were, unnoticed, and hidden in a 
corner of her mind, now unfolded and displayed itself in all 
its importance. On every occasion she called it to her aid, 
that she might enjoy in tranquillity the images of a self- 
chosen future. Together with this idea, hov/ever, there 
invariably appeared another ; that the refusal of this consent 
involved rebellion against her father, who already believed 
it, or pretended to believe it, a decided thing; and at this 
remembrance, the child's mind was very far from feeling 
the confidence which her words proclaimed. She would then 
compare herself with her companions, whose confidence was 
of a far different kind, and experienced lamentably that envy 
of their condition v/hich, at first, she endeavoured to awaken 
in them. From envy she changed to hatred; which she dis- 
played in contempt, rudeness, and sarcastic speeches; while, 
sometimes, the conformity of her inclinations and hopes with 
theirs, suppressed her spite, and created in her an apparent 
and transient friendship. At times, longing to enjoy some- 
thing real and present, she would feel a complacency in the 



154 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

distinctions accorded to her, and make others sensible of 
this superiority; and then, again, unable to tolerate the 
solitude of her fears and desires, she would go in search of 
her companions, her haughtiness appeased, almost, indeed, 
imploring of them kindness, counsel, and encouragement. In 
the midst of such pitiable warfare with herself and others, 
she passed her childhood, and entered upon that critical 
age at which an almost mysterious power seems to take pos- 
session of the soul, arousing, refreshing, invigorating all 
the inclinations and ideas, and sometimes transforming them, 
or turning them into some unlooked-for channel. That 
which, until now, Gertrude had most distinctly figured in 
these dreams of the future, was external splendour and 
pomp; a something soothing and kindly, which, from the 
first, was lightly, and, as it were, mistily, diffused over her 
mind, now began to spread itself and predominate in her 
imagination. It took possession of the most secret recesses 
of her heart, as of a gorgeous retreat; hither she retired 
from present objects; here she entertained various per- 
sonages strangely compounded of the confused remem- 
brances of childhood, the little she had seen of the external 
world, and what she had gathered in conversations with her 
companions; she entertained herself with them, talked to 
them, and replied in their name; here she gave commands, 
and here she received homage of every kind. At times, the 
thoughts of religion would come to disturb these brilliant 
and toilsome revels. But religion, such as it had been taught 
to this poor girl, and such as she had received it, did not 
prohibit pride, but rather sanctified it, and proposed it as a 
means of obtaining earthly felicity. Robbed thus of its 
essence, it was no longer religion, but a phantom like the 
rest. In the intervals in which this phantom occupied the 
first place, and ruled in Gertrude's fancy, the unhappy girl, 
oppressed by confused terrors, and urged by an indefinite 
idea of duty imagined that her repugnance to the cloister, 
and her resistance to the wishes of her superiors in the 
choice of her state of life, was a fault; and she resolved 
in her heart to expiate it, by voluntarily taking the veil. 

It was a rule, that, before a young person could be re- 
ceived as a nun, she should be examined by an ecclesiastic. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 155 

called the vicar of the nuns, or by some one deputed by him ; 
that it might be seen whether the lot were her deliberate 
choice or not; and this examination could not take place 
for a year after she had, by a written request, signified her 
desire to the vicar. Those nuns who had taken upon them- 
selves the sad office of inducing Gertrude to bind herself 
for ever with the least possible consciousness of what she 
was doing, seized one of the moments we have described to 
persuade her to write and sign such a memorial. And, in 
order the more easily to persuade her to such a course, 
they failed not to affirm and impress upon her, what, indeed, 
was quite true, that, after all, it was a mere formality, v\^hich 
could have no effect, without other and posterior steps, de- 
pending entirely upon her own will. Nevertheless the 
memorial had scarcely reached its destination, before Ger- 
trude repented having written it. Then she repented of 
these repentances; and thus days and months were spent in 
an incessant alternation of wishes and regrets. For a long 
while she concealed this act from her companions; some- 
times from fear of exposing her good resolution to opposi- 
tion and contradiction, at others from shame at revealing 
her error; but, at last, the desire of unburdening her mind, 
and of seeking advice and encouragement, conquered. 

Another rule was this: that a young girl was not to be 
admitted to this examination upon the course of life she 
had chosen, until she had resided for at least a month out 
of the convent where she had been educated. A year had 
almost passed since the presentation of this memorial; and 
it had been signified to Gertrude that she v^^ould shortly be 
taken from the monastery, and sent to her father's house, 
for this one month, there to take all the necessary steps to- 
wards the completion of the work she had really begun. The 
Prince, and the rest of the family, considered it an assured 
thing, as if it had already taken place. Not so, however, 
his daughter; instead of taking fresh steps, she was en- 
gaged in considering how she could withdraw the first. In 
her perplexity, she resolved to open her mind to one of 
her companions, the most sincere and always the readiest 
to give spirited advice. She advised Gertrude to inform 
her father, by letter, that she had changed her mind, since 



156 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

she had not the courage to pronounce to his face, at the 
proper time, a bold / will not. And as gratuitous advice in 
this world is very rare, the counsellor made Gertrude pay 
for this by abundance of raillery upon her wa.nt of spirit. 
The letter was agreed upon with three or four confidantes, 
written in private, and despatched by means of many deeply- 
studied artifices. Gertrude waited v/ith great anxiety for 
a reply; but none came; excepting that, a few days after- 
wards, the Abbess, taking her aside, with an air of mystery, 
displeasure, and compassion, let fall some obscure hints 
about the great anger of her father, and a wrong step she 
must have been taking; leaving her to understand, however, 
that if she behaved well, she might still hope that all would 
be forgotten. The poor yotfng girl understood it, and dared 
not venture to ask any further explanation. 

At last, the day so much dreaded, and so ardently wished 
for, arrived. Although Gertrude knevv^ well enough that 
she was going to a great struggle, yet to leave the monas- 
tery, to pass the bounds of those walls in which she had 
been for eight years immured, to traverse the open country 
in a carriage, to see once more the city and her home, filled 
her with sensations of tumultuous joy. As to the struggle, 
with the direction of her confidantes, she had already taken 
her measures, and concerted her plans. Either they will 
force me, thought she, and then I will be immovable — I 
will be humble and respectful, but will refuse; the chief 
point is not to pronounce another ' Yes/ and I will not 
pronounce it. Or they will catch me with good words ; and 
I will be better than they ; I will weep, I will implore, I will 
move them to pity; at last, will only entreat that I may not 
be sacrificed. But, as it often happens in similar cases of 
foresight, neither one nor the other supposition was realized. 
Days passed, and neither her father, nor any one else, spoke 
to her about the petition, or the recantation; and no pro- 
posal was made to her, with either coaxing or threatening. 
Her parents were serious, sad, and morose, towards her, 
without ever giving a reason for such behaviour. It was 
only to be understood that they regarded her as faulty and 
unworthy ; a mysterious anathema seemed to hang over her, 
and divide her from the rest of her family, merely suffering 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 157 

SO much intercourse as was necessary to make her feel 
her subjection. Seldom, and only at certain fixed hours, was 
she admitted to the company of her parents and elder 
Brother. In the conversations of these three there appeared 
to reign a great confidence, which rendered the exclusion 
of Gertrude doubly sensible and painful. No one addressed 
her; and if she ventured timidly to make a remark, unless 
very evidently called for, her words were either unnoticed, 
or were responded to by a careless, contemptuous, or severe 
look. If unable any longer to endure so bitter and humil- 
iating a distinction, she sought and endeavoured to mingle 
with the family, and implored a little affection; she soon 
heard some indirect but clear hint thrown out about her 
choice of a m^onastic life, and was given to understand that 
there was one way of regaining the affection of the family ; 
and since she would not accept of it on these conditions, she 
was obliged to draw back, to refuse the first advances to- 
wards the kindness she so much desired, and to continue in 
her state of excommunication; continue in it, too, with 
a certain appearance of being to blame. 

Such impressions from surrounding objects painfully con- 
tradicted the bright visions with which Gertrude had been 
so much occupied, and which she still secretly indulged in 
her heart. She had hoped that, in her splendid and much- 
frequented home, she should have enjoyed at least some 
real taste of the pleasures she had so long im.agined; but 
she found herself woefully deceived. The confinement was 
as strict and close at home as in the convent; to walk out 
for recreation was never even spoken of; and a gallery 
that led from the house to an adjoining church, obviated 
the sole necessity there might have been to go into the 
street. The company was more uninteresting, more scarce, 
and less varied than in the monastery. At every announce- 
ment of a visitor, Gertrude was obliged to go up-stairs, and 
remain with some old woman in the service of the family; 
and here she dined whenever there was company. The 
domestic servants concurred in behaviour and language 
with the example and intentions of their master; and Ger- 
trude, who by inclination would have treated them with 
lady-like unaffected familiarity; and who, in the rank in 



158 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

which she was placed, would have esteemed it a favour 
if they had shown her any little mark of kindness as an 
equal, and even have stooped to ask it, was now humbled 
and annoyed at being treated with a manifest indifference, 
although accompanied by a slight obsequiousness of for- 
mality. She could not, however, but observe, that one of 
these servants, a page, appeared to bear her a respect very 
different to the others, and to feel a peculiar kind of com- 
passion for her. The behaviour of this youth approached 
more nearly than anything she had yet seen to the state 
of things that Gertrude had pictured to her imagination, 
and more resembled the doings of her ideal characters. By 
degrees, a strange transformation was discernible in the 
manners of the young girl; there appeared a new tran- 
quillity, and at the same time a restlessness, differing from 
her usual disquietude; her conduct w^as that of one who had 
found a treasure which oppresses him, which he incessantly 
watches, and hides from the view of others. Gertrude kept 
her eyes on this page more closely than ever; and, how- 
ever it came to pass, she was surprised one unlucky morning 
by a chamber-maid, while secretly folding up a letter, in 
which it would have been better had she v/ritten nothing. 
After a brief altercation, the maid got possession of the 
letter, and carried it to her master. The terror of Gertrude 
at the sound of his footsteps, may be more easily imagined 
than described. It was her father; he v^as irritated, and 
she felt herself guilty. But when he stood before her with 
that frowning brow, and the ill-fated letter in his hand, 
she would gladly have been a hundred feet under ground, 
not to say in a cloister. His words were few, but terrible; 
the punishment named at the time was only to be confined 
in her own room under the charge of the maid who had made 
the discovery; but this was merely a foretaste, a temporary 
provision; he threatened, and left a vague promise of some 
other obscure, undefined, and therefore more dreadful 
punishment. 

The page was, of course, immediately dismissed, and was 
menaced with something terrible, if ever he should breathe 
a syllable about the past. In giving him this intimation, the 
Prince seconded it with two solemn blows, to associate in 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 159 

his mind with this adventure a remembrance that would 
effectually remove every temptation to make a boast of it. 
Some kind of pretext to account for the dismissal of a page 
was not difficult to find ; as to the young lady, it was reported 
that she was ill. 

She was now left to her fears, her shame, her remorse, 
and her dread of the future; with the sole company of this 
woman, whom she hated as the witness of her guilt, and 
the cause of her disgrace. She, in her turn, hated Gertrude, 
by whom she was reduced, she knew not for how long, to 
the wearisome life of a jailer, and had becom.e for ever the 
guardian of a dangerous secret. 

The first confused tumult of these feelings subsided by 
degrees; but each remembrance recurring by turns to her 
mind, was nourished there, and remiained to torment her 
more distinctly, and at leisure. Whatever could the punish- 
ment be, so mysteriously threatened? Many, various, and 
strange, v/ere the ideas that suggested themselves to the 
ardent and inexperienced imagination of Gertrude. The 
prospect that appeared most probable was, that she would 
be taken back to the monastery at Monza, no longer to 
appear as the Signorina, but as a guilty person, to be shut 
up there — who knew how long! who knew with what kind 
of treatment ! Among the many annoyances of such a course, 
perhaps the miost annoying was the dread of the shame she 
should feel. The expressions, the words, the very commas 
of the unfortunate letter, were turned over and over in her 
memory: she fancied them noticed and weighed by a reader 
so unexpected, so different from the one to whom they 
were destined in reply; she imagined that they might have 
come under the view of her mother, her brother, or indeed 
any one else; and by comparison, all the rest seemed to her 
a mere nothing. The image of him who had been the 
primary cause of all this offence failed not also frequently 
to beset the poor recluse; and it is impossible to describe 
the strange contrast this phantasm presented to those around 
her; so dissimilar, so serious, reserved, and threatening. 
But, since she could not separate his image from theirs, nor 
turn for a moment to those transient gratifications, with- 
out her present sorrows, as the consequence of them, sug- 



160 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

gesting themselves to her mind, she began, by degrees, to 
recall them less frequently, to repel the remembrance of 
them, and wean herself from such thoughts. She no longer 
willingly indulged in the bright and splendid fancies of 
her earlier days; they were too much opposed to her real 
circumstances, and to every probability for the future. The 
only castle in which Gertrude could conceive a tranquil 
and honourable retreat, which was not in the air, was the 
monastery, if she could make up her mind to enter it for 
ever. Such a resolution, she could not doubt, would have 
repaired everything, atoned for every fault, and changed 
her condition in a moment. Opposed to this proposal, it is 
true, rose up the plans and hopes of her whole childhood; 
but times were changed ; and in the depths to which Gertrude 
had fallen, and in comparison of what, at times, she so much 
dreaded, the condition of a nun, respected, revered, and 
obeyed, appeared to her a bright prospect. Two sentiments 
of very different character, indeed, contributed at intervals, 
to overcome her former aversion: sometimes remorse for a 
fault, and a capricious sensibility of devotion; and at other 
times, her pride embittered and irritated by the manners of 
her jailer, who (often, it must be confessed, provoked to it) 
revenged herself now by terrifying her with the prospect 
of the threatened punishment, or taunting her with the dis- 
grace of her fault. When, however, she chose to be 
benign, she would assume a tone of protection, still more 
odious than insult. On these different occasions, the wish 
that Gertrude felt to escape from her clutches, and to raise 
herself to a condition above either her anger or pity, be- 
came so vivid and urgent, that it made everything which 
could lead to such an end appear pleasant and agreeable. 

At the end of four or five long days of confinement, Ger- 
trude, disgusted and exasperated beyond measure by one 
of these sallies of her guardian, went and sat down in a 
corner of the room, and covering her face with her hands, 
remained for some time secretly indulging her rage. She 
then felt an overbearing longing to see some other faces, 
to hear some other words, to be treated differently. She 
thought of her father, of her family ; and the idea made her 
shrink back in horror. But she remembered that it only 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 161 

depended upon her to make them her friends; and this 
remembrance awakened a momentary joy. Then there 
followed a confused and unusual sorrow for her fault, and 
an equal desire to expiate it. Not that her will was already 
determined upon such a resolution, but she had never before 
approached it so near. She rose from her seat, went to the 
table, took up the fatal pen, and wrote a letter to her father, 
full of enthusiasm and humiliation, of affliction and hope, 
imploring his pardon, and showing herself indefinitely ready 
to do anything that would glease him who alone could 
grant it. 



HC e— Vol 21 




CHAPTER X 

jHERE are times when the mind, of the young es- 
pecially, is so disposed, that any external influence, 
however slight, suffices to call forth whatever has the 
appearance of virtuous self-sacrifice; as a scarcely expanded 
flower abandons itself negligently to its fragile stem, ready 
to yield its fragrance to the first breath of the zephyrs that 
float around. These moments, which others should regard 
with reverential awe, are exactly those which the wily and 
interested eagerly watch for, and seize with avidity, to fetter 
an unguarded will. 

On the perusal of this letter the Prince * * * instantly saw 
a door opened to the fulfilment of his early and still cherished 
views. He therefore sent to Gertrude to come to him, and 
prepared to strike the iron while it was hot. Gertrude had 
no sooner made her appearance, than, without raising her 
eyes towards her father, she threw herself upon her knees, 
scarcely able to articulate the word ' Pardon,' The Prince 
beckoned to her to rise, and then, in a voice little calculated 
to reassure her, replied, that it was not sufficient to desire 
and solicit forgiveness, for that was easy and natural enough 
to one who had been convicted of a fault, and dreaded its 
punishment; that, in short, it was necessary she should de- 
serve it. Gertrude, in a subdued and trembling voice, asked 
what she must do. To this question the Prince (for we can- 
not find in our heart at this moment to give him the title of 
father) made no direct reply, but proceeded to speak at some 
length on Gertrude's fault, in words which grated on the feel- 
ings of the poor girl like the drawing of a rough hand over a 
wound. He then went on to say, that even if . , . supposing 
he ever . . . had had at the first any intention of settling her 
in the world, she herself had now opposed an insuperable 
obstacle to such a plan; since a man of honour, as he was, 
could never bring himself to give to any gentleman a daughter 
who had shown such a specimen of her character. His 
wretched auditor was completely overwhelmed; and then the 

162 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 163 

Prince, gradually softening his voice and language, proceeded 
to say, that for every fault there was a remedy and a hope 
of mercy; that hers was one the remedy for which was very 
distinctly indicated ; that she ought to see in this sad event a 
warning, as it were, that a worldly life was too full of danger 
for her . . . 

* Ah, yes ! ' exclaimed Gertrude, excited by fear, subdued 
by a sense of shame, and overcome at the instant by a mo- 
mentary tenderness of spirit. 

* Ah ; you see it too/ replied the Prince, instantly taking up 
her words. ' Well, let us say no more of what is past : all is 
cancelled. You have taken the only honourable and suitable 
course that rem.ained for you; but, since you have chosen it 
willingly and cheerfully, it rests with me to make it pleasant 
to you in every possible way. I have the pov/er of turning it 
to your advantage, and giving all the merit of the action to 
yourself, and I'll engage to do it for you.' So saying, he 
rang a little bell that stood on the table, and said to the ser- 
vant who answered it, — * The Princess and the young Prince 
immediately.' Then turning to Gertrude, he continued : * I 
wish them to share in my satisfaction at once; and I wish 
you immediately to be treated by all as is fit and proper. You 
have experienced a little of the severe parent, but from hence- 
forth you shall find me an affectionate father/ 

Gertrude stood thunderstruck at these words. One mo- 
ment she wondered how that ' yes,' which had escaped her 
lips, could be made to mean so much: then she thought, was 
there no way of retracting — of restricting the sense ; but the 
Prince's conviction seemed so unshaken, his joy so sensitively 
jealous, and his benignity so conditional, that Gertrude dared 
not utter a word to disturb them in the slightest degree. 

The parties summoned quickly made their appearance, and, 
on seeing Gertrude, regarded her with an expression of sur- 
prise and uncertainty. But the Prince, with a cheerful and 
loving countenance, which immediately met v/ith an answer- 
ing look from them, said, — 'Behold the wandering sheep: 
and I intend this to be the last word that shall awaken sad 
remembrances. Behold the consolation of the family ! Ger- 
trude no longer needs advisers, for she has voluntarily chosen 
what we desired for her good. She has determined — she 



164 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

has given me to understand that she has determined . . . 
Here Gertrude raised towards her father a look between 
terror and suppHcation, as if imploring him to pause, but 
he continued boldly : ' that she has determined to take 
the veil.' 

' Brava ! well done ! ' exclaimed the mother and son, turn- 
ing at the same time to embrace Gertrude, who received these 
congratulations with tears, which were interpreted as tears 
of satisfaction. The Prince then expatiated upon what he 
would do to render the situation of his daughter pleasant, 
and even splendid. He spoke of the distinction with which 
she would be regarded in the monastery and the surrounding 
country : that she would be like a princess, the representative 
of the family; that, as soon as ever her age would allow of 
it, she would be raised to the first dignity, and in the mean 
while would be under subjection only in name. The Princess 
and the young Prince renewed their congratulations and 
applauses, while poor Gertrude stood as if possessed by a 
dream. 

* We had better fix the day for going to Monza to make 
our request of the Abbess,' said the Prince. ' How pleased 
she will be ! I venture to say that all the monastery will 
know how to estimate the honour which Gertrude does them. 
Likewise . . . but why not go this very day? Gertrude will 
be glad to take an airing.' 

* Let us go, then,' said the Princess. 

' I will go and give orders,' said the young Prince. 

* But . . .' suggested Gertrude, submissively. 

* Softly, softly,' replied the Prince, Met her decide: per- 
haps she does not feel inclined to-day, and would rather delay 
till to-morrow. Tell me, would you prefer to-day or to- 
morrow ? ' 

' To-morrow,' answered Gertrude, in a faint voice, thinking 
it something that she could get a little longer respite. 

* To-morrow,' pronounced the Prince, solemnly ; ' she has 
decided that we go to-morrow. In the mean while I will go 
and ask the vicar of the nuns to name a day for the ex- 
amination.' 

No sooner said than done; the Prince took his departure, 
and absolutely went himself (no little act of condescension) 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 165 

to the vicar, and obtained a promise that he would attend 
her the day after to-morrow. 

During the remainder of this day Gertrude had not two 
moments of quiet. She wished to have calmed her mind 
after so many scenes of excitement, to clear and arrange her 
thoughts, to render an account to herself of what she had 
done, and of what she was about to do, determine what she 
wished, and, for a moment at least, retard that machine, 
which, once started, was proceeding so precipitously; but 
there was no opening. Occupations succeeded one another 
without interruption — one treading, as it were, upon the heels 
of another. Immediately after this solemn interview, she 
was conducted to her mother's dressing-room, there, under 
her superintendence, to be dressed and adorned by her own 
waiting-maid. Scarcely was this business completed when 
dinner was announced. Gertrude was greeted on her way by 
the bows of the servants, who expressed their congratulations 
for her recovery; and, on reaching the dining-room, she 
found a few of their nearest friends, who had been hastily 
invited to do her honour, and to share in the general joy 
for the two happy events,-^her restored health, and her 
choice of a vocation. 

The young bride — (as the novices were usually distin- 
guished, and Gertrude was saluted on all sides by this title 
on her first appearance) — the young bride had enough to do 
to reply to all the compliments that were addressed to her. 
She was fully sensible that every one of these answers was, 
as it were, an assent and confirmation; yet how could she 
reply otherwise ? Shortly after dinner came the driving hour, 
and Gertrude accompanied her mother in a carriage, with 
two uncles who had been among the guests. After the usual 
tour, they entered the Strada Marina, which crossed the space 
now occupied by the public gardens, and was the rendezvous 
of the gentry who drove out for recreation after the labours 
of the day. The uncles addressed much of their conversa- 
tion to Gertrude, as was to be expected on such a day; and 
one of them, who seemed to be acquainted with everybody, 
every carriage, every livery, and had every moment some- 
thing to say about Signor this and Lady that, suddenly 
checked himself, and turning to his niece — * Ah, you young 



168 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

rogue ! ' exclaimed he ; ' you are turning your back on all 
these follies, — you are one of the saints; we poor worldly 
fellows are caught in the snare, but you are going to lead 
a religious life, and go to heaven in your carriage/ 

As evening approached tliey returned home, and the ser- 
vants, hastily descending to meet them with lights, announced 
several visitors who were awaiting their return. The rumour 
had spread, and friends and relations Ctowded to pay their 
respects. On entering the drawing-room the young bride be- 
came the idol — the sole object of attention — the victim. 
Every one wished to have her to himself; one promised her 
pleasures, — another visits; one spoke of Madre this, her re- 
lation, — another of Madre that, an acquaintance ; one extolled 
the climate of Monza, — another enlarged with great elo- 
quence upon the distinctions she would there enjoy. Others, 
V\^ho had not yet succeeded in approaching Gertrude while 
thus besieged, stood watching their opportunity to address 
her, and felt a kind of regret until they had discharged their 
duty in this matter. By degrees the party dispersed, and 
Gertrude remained alone with the family. 

*At last,' said the Prince, *I have had the pleasure of 
seeing my daughter treated as becomes her rank. I must 
confess that she has conducted herself very well, and has 
shown that she will not be prevented making the first figure, 
and maintaining the dignity of the family.' They then went 
to supper, so as to retire early, that they might be ready in 
good time in the morning, 

Gertrude, annoyed, piqued, and at the same time a little 
puffed up by the compliments and ceremonies of the day, at 
this moment remembered all she had suffered from her jailer; 
and, seeing her father so ready to gratify her in everything 
but one, she resolved to m-ake use of this disposition for the 
indulgence of at least one of the passions which tormented 
her. She displayed a great unwillingness again to be left 
alone with her maid, and complained bitterly of her treat- 
ment. 

* What ! ' said the Prince ; * did she not treat you with re- 
spect ? To-morrow I will reward her as she deserves. Leave 
it to me, and I Vv^ill gtt you entire satisfaction. In the mean 
while, a child with whom I am so well pleased must not be 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 167 

attended by a person she dislikes/ So saying, he called an- 
other servant, and gave her orders to wait upon Gertrude, 
who, though certainly enjoying the satisfaction she received, 
was astonished at finding it so trifling, in comparison with 
the earnest wishes she had felt beforehand. The thought 
that, in spite of her unwillingness, predominated in her im- 
agination, was the remembrance of the fearful progress she 
had this day made towards her cloistral life, and the con- 
sciousness that to draw back now would require a far, far 
greater degree of courage and resolution than would have 
sufficed a few days before, and which, even then, she felt she 
did not possess. 

The woman appointed to attend her was an old servant of 
the family, who had formerly been the yoimg Prince's gover- 
ness, having received him from the arms of his nurse, and 
brought him up until he was almost a young man. In him 
she had centred all her pleasures, all her hopes, all her pride. 
She was delighted at this day's decision, as if it had been her 
own good fortune ; and Gertrude, at the close of the day, was 
obliged to listen to the congratulations, praises, and advice of 
this old woman. She told her of some of her aunts and near 
relations who had been very happy as nuns, because, being 
of so high a family, they had always enjoyed the first honours, 
and had been able to have a good deal of influence beyond the 
walls of the convent; so that, from their parlour, they had 
come off victorious in undertakings in which the first ladies 
of the land had been quite foiled. She talked to her about 
the visits she would receive; she would some day be seeing 
the Signor Prince with his bride, who must certainly be some 
noble lady; and then not only the monastery, but the whole 
country would be in excitement. The old woman talked while 
undressing Gertrude ; she talked after she had lain down, and 
even continued talking after Gertrude was asleep. Youth 
and fatigue had been more powerful than cares. Her sleep 
was troubled, disturbed, and full of tormenting dreams, but 
was imbroken, until the shrill voice of the old v/oman 
aroused her to prepare for her journey to Monza. 

* Up, up, Signora bride ; it is broad day-light, and you will 
want at least an hour to dress and arrange yourself. The 
Signora Princess is getting up; they awoke her four hours 



168 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

earlier than usual. The young Prince has already been down 
to the stables and come back, and is ready to start whenever 
you are. The creature is as brisk as a hare ! but he was al- 
ways so from a child: I have a right to say so who have 
nursed hira in my arms. But when he's once set a-going, it 
won't do to oppose him; for, though he is the best-tempered 
creature in the v/orld, he sometimes gets impatient and 
storms. Poor fellow ! one must pity him ; it is all the effect 
of his temperament; and besides, this time there is some 
reason in it, because he is going to all this trouble for you. 
People must take care how they touch him at such times ! he 
minds no one except the Signor Prince, But some day he 
will be the Prince himself; may it be as long as possible first, 
however. Quick, quick, Signorina, why do you look at me as 
if you were bewitched? You ought to be out of your nest at 
this hour.' 

At the idea of the impatient Prince, all the other thoughts 
which had crowded into Gertrude's mind on awaking, van- 
ished before it, like a flock of sparrows on the sudden appear- 
ance of a scarecrow. She instantly obeyed, dressed herself 
in haste, and, after submitting to the decoration of her hair 
and person, went down to the saloon, where her parents and 
brother were assembled. She was then led to an arm-chair, 
and a cup of chocolate was brought to her, which in those 
days was a ceremony similiar to that formerly in use among 
the Romans, of presenting the toga virilis. 

When the carriage was at the door, the Prince drew his 
daughter aside, and said : ' Come, Gertrude, yesterday you had 
every attention paid you; to-day you must overcome your- 
self. The point is now to make a proper appearance in the 
monastery and the surrounding country, where you are des- 
tined to take the first place. They are expecting you.' (It is 
unnecessary to say that the Prince had despatched a message 
the preceding day to the Lady Abbess.) * They are expecting 
you, and all eyes will be upon you. You m.ust maintain dig- 
nity and an easy manner. The Abbess will ask you what 
you wish, according to the usual form. You must reply that 
you request to be allowed to take the veil in the monastery 
where you have'been so lovingly educated, and have received 
so many kindnesses, which is the simple truth. You will gro^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 169 

nounce these words with an unembarrassed air ; for I would 
not have it said that you have been drawn in, and that you 
don't know how to ansv/er for yourself. These good mothers 
know nothing of the past : it is a secret which must remain 
for ever buried in the family. Take care you don't put on a 
sorrowful or dubious countenance, which might excite any 
suspicion. Show of what blood you are: be courteous and 
modest ; but remember that there, away from the family, there 
will be nobody above you.' 

Without waiting for a reply, the Prince led the way, Ger- 
trude, the Princess, and the young Prince, following; and, 
going dov/n-stairs, they seated themselves in the carriage. 
The snares and vexations of the world, and the happy, blessed 
life of the cloister, more especially for young people of noble 
birth, were the subjects of conversation during the drive. On 
approaching their destination the Prince renewed his instruc- 
tions to his daughter, and repeated over to her several times 
the prescribed form of reply. On entering this neighbour- 
hood, Gertrude felt her heart beat violently ; but her attention 
was suddenly arrested by several gentlemen, who stopped the 
carriage and addressed numberless compliments to her. Then 
continuing their way, they drove slowly up to the monastery, 
amongst the inquisitive gazes of the crowds who had collected 
upon the road. When the carriage stopped before these well- 
known walls, and that dreaded door, Gertrude's heart beat 
still more violently. They alighted between two wings of by- 
standers, whom the servants were endeavouring to keep back, 
and the consciousness that the eyes of all were upon her, com- 
pelled the unfortunate girl closely to study her behaviour; 
but, above all, those of her father kept her in awe; for, spite 
of the dread she had of them, she could not help every mo- 
ment raising her eyes to his, and, like invisible reins, they 
regulated every movement and expression of her counte- 
nance. After traversing the first court, they entered the sec- 
otid, where the door of the interior cloister was held open, 
and completely blockaded by nuns. In the first row stood the 
'Abbess, surrounded by the eldest of the sisterhood; behind 
them the younger nuns promiscuously arranged, and some on 
tip-toe; and, last of all, the lay-sisters mounted on stools. 
Here and there among them were seen the glancing of certain 



170 - ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

bright eyes and some little faces peeping out from between 
the cowls: they were the most active and daring of the 
pupils, who, creeping in and pushing their way between nun 
and nun, had succeeded in making an opening where they 
might also see something. Many were the acclamations of 
this crowd, and many the hands held up in token of welcome 
and exultation. They reached the door, and Gertrude found 
herself standing before the Lady Abbess. After the first 
compliments, the superior, with an air between cheerfulness 
and solemnity, asked her what she wanted in that place, 
where there was no one who would deny her anything. 

* I am here . . .' began Gertrude ; but, on the point of pro- 
nouncing the words which would almost irrevocably decide 
her fate, she hesitated a moment, and remained with her eyes 
fixed on the crowd before her. At this moment she caught 
the eye of one of her old companions, who looked at her with 
a mixed air of compassion and malice v/hich seemed to say: 
ah ! the boaster is caught. This sight, awakening more viv- 
idly in her mind her old feelings, restored to her also a little 
of her former courage ; and she was on the point of framing 
a reply far different to the one which had been dictated to 
her, when, raising her eyes to her father's face, almost, as it 
were to try her strength, she encountered there such a deep 
disquietude, such a threatening impatience, that, urged by 
fear, she continued with great precipitation, as if flying from 
some terrible object : ' I am here to request permission to take 
the religious habit in this monastery, where I have been so 
lovingly educated.' The Abbess quickly answered, that she 
was very sorry in this instance that the -regulations forbade 
her giving an immediate reply, which must come from the 
general votes of the sisters, and for which she must obtain 
permission from her superiors; that, nevertheless, Gertrude 
knew well enough the feelings entertained towards her in 
that place, to foresee what the answer would be ; and that, in 
the mean while, no regulation prevented the Abbess and the 
sisterhood from manifesting the great satisfaction they felt 
in hearing her make such a request. There then burst forth 
a confused m.urmur of congratulations and acclamations. 
Presently, large dishes were brought filled with sweetmeats, 
and v/ere offered first to the bride, and afterwards to her 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 171 

parents. While some of the nuns approached to greet Ger- 
trude, others complimenting her mother, and others the 
young Prince, the Abbess requested the Prince to repair to 
the grate of the parlour of conference, where she would wait 
upon him. She was accompanied by two elders, and on his 
appearing, ' Signor Prince,' said she ; * to obey the regula- 
tions ... to perform an indispensable formality, though in 
this case . . . nevertheless I must tell you . . . that when- 
ever a yoimg person asks to be admitted to take the veil, 
, . . the superior, which I am unworthily ... is obliged to 
warn the parents . . . that if by any chance . . . they should 
have constrained the will of their daughter, they are liable to 
excommunication. You will excuse me . . .' 

* Oh ! certainly, certainly, reverend mother. I admire 
your exactness; it is only right . . . But you need not 
doubt . . .' 

' Oh ! think, Signor Prince ... I only spoke from abso- 
lute duty . . . for the rest . . .' 

' Certainly, certainly. Lady Abbess.' 

Having exchanged these few words, the two interlocuitors 
reciprocally bowed and departed, as if neither of them felt 
willing to prolong the interview, each retiring to his own 
party, the one outside, the other within the threshold of the 
cloister. * Now then let us go,' said the Prince : ^ Gertrude 
will soon have plenty of opportunity of enjoying as much as 
she pleases the society of these good mothers. For the pres- 
ent, we have put them to enough inconvenience.' And, mak- 
ing a low bow, he signified his wish to return : the party broke 
up, exchanged salutations, and departed. 

During the drive home Gertrude felt little inclination to 
speak. Alarmed at the step she had taken, ashamed at her 
want of spirit, and vexed with others as v/ell as herself, she 
tried to enumerate the opportunities which still remained of 
saying no, and languidly and confusedly resolved in her own 
mind that in this, or that, or the other instance she would 
be more open and courageous. Yet, in the midst of these 
thoughts, her dread of her father's frov/n still held its full 
sway; so that once, when, by a stealthy glance at his face, 
she was fully assured that not a vestige of anger remained, 
when she even saw that he was perfectly satisfied with her. 



172 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

she felt quite cheered, and experienced a real hut transient 

joy- 
On their arrival, a long toilette, dinner, visits, walks, d, 

conversasione and supper, followed each other in rapid suc- 
cession. After supper the Prince introduced another subject 
— the choice of a godmother. This was the title of the person 
who, being solicited by the parents, became the guardian and 
escort of the young novice, in the interval between the request 
and the admission; an interval frequently spent in visiting 
churches, public palaces, conversasioni, villas, and temples; 
in short, everything of note in the city and its environs; so 
that the young people, before pronouncing the irrevocable 
vow, might be fully aware of what they were giving up. 

* We must think of a godmother,' said the Prince; * for to- 
morrow the vicar of the nuns will be here for the usual for- 
mality of an examination, and shortly afterwards Gertrude 
will be proposed in council for the acceptance of the nuns.' 

In saying this he turned towards the Princess, and she, 
thinking he intended it as an invitation to her to make some 
proposal, was beginning: 'There should be . . / But the 
Prince interrupted her. 

' No, no, Signora Princess ; the godmother should be ac- 
ceptable above all to the bride ; and though universal custom 
gives the selection to the parents, yet Gertrude has so much 
judgment, and such excellent discernment, that she richly de- 
serves to be made an exception.' And here, turning to Ger- 
trude, with the air of one who was bestowing a singular 
favour, he continued : * Any one of the ladies who were at the 
conversazione this evening possesses all the necessary quali- 
fications for the office of godmother to a person of your 
family; and any one of them, I am willing to believe, wijl 
think it an honour to be made choice of. Do you choose for 
yourself.' 

Gertrude was fully sensible that to make a choice was but 
lo renew her consent; yet the proposition was made with so 
much dignity, that a refusal would have borne the appearance 
of contempt, and an excuse, of ignorance or fastidiousness. 
She therefore took this step also, and named a lady who had 
chiefly taken her fancy that evening ; that is to say, one who 
had paid her the most attention, who had most applauded her. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 173 

and who had treated her with those familiar, alTfectionat'e, and 
engaging manners, which, on the first acquaintanceship, coun- 
terfeit a friendship of long standing. * An excellent choice,' 
exclaimed the Prince, who had exactly wished and expected 
it. Whether by art or chance, it happened just as when a 
card-player, holding up to view a pack of cards, bids the 
spectator think of one, and then will tell him which it is, 
having previously disposed them in such a way that but one 
of them can be seen. This lady had been so much with Ger- 
trude all the evening, and had so entirely engaged her atten- 
tion, that it would have required an effort of imagination to 
think of another. These attentions, however, had not been 
paid without a motive; the lady had for some time fixed her 
eyes upon the young Prince as a desirable son-in-law ; hence 
she regarded everything belonging to the family as her own ; 
and therefore it was natural enough that she should interest 
herself for her dear Gertrude, no less than for her nearest 
relatives. 

On the morrow, Gertrude awoke with the image of the 
approaching examination before her eyes ; and, while she was 
considering if and how she could seize this most decisive op- 
portunity to draw back, she was summoned by the Prince. 
* Courage, my child,' said he : ' until now you have behaved 
admirably, and it only remains to-day to crown the work. 
All that has been done hitherto has been done with your con- 
sent. If, in this interval, any doubts had arisen in your mind, 
any misgivings, or youthful regrets, you ought to have ex- 
pressed them ; but at the point at which we have now arrived, 
it is no longer the time to play the child. The worthy man 
who is coming to you this morning, will ask you a hundred 
questions about your election, and whether you go of your 
own good will, and why, and how, and what not besides. If 
you tantalize him in your replies, he will keep you under ex- 
amination I don't know how long. It would be an annoyance 
and a weariness to you; and it might produce a still more 
serious effort. After all the public demonstrations that have 
been made, every little hesitation you may display will risk 
my honour, and may make people think that I have taken a 
momentary fancy of yours for a settled resolution — that I 
have rushed headlong into the business — ^that I have . . r 



174 • ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

what not? In this case, I shall be reduced to the necessity 
of choosing between two painful alternatives; either to let 
the world form a derogatory judgment of my conduct — a 
course which I absolutely cannot take in justice to myself — •! 
or to reveal the true motive of your resolution, and . ^ / 
But here, observing that Gertrude coloured crimson, that her 
eyes became inflamed, and her face contracted like the petals 
of a flower in the sultry heat that precedes a storm, he broke 
off this strain, and continued with a serene face : * Come, 
come, all depends upon yourself — upon your judgment. I 
know that you are not deficient in it, and that you are not a 
child, to go spoil a good undertaking just at the conclusion; 
but I must foresee and provide for all contingencies. Let us 
say no more about it; only let me feel assured that you will 
reply with frankness so as not to excite suspicion in the 
mind of this worthy man. Thus you, also, will be set at lib- 
erty the sooner.' Then, after suggesting a few answers to 
the probable interrogations that would be put, he entered 
upon the usual topic of the pleasures and enjoym.ents prepared 
for Gertrude at the monastery, and contrived to detain her 
on this subject till a servant announced the arrival of the ex- 
aminer. After a hasty repetition of the most important hints, 
he left his daughter alone with him, according to the usual 
custom. 

The good man came with a slight pre-conceived opinion 
that Gertrude had a strong desire for a cloistral life, because 
the Prince had told him so, when he went to request his 
attendance. It is true that the good priest, who knew well 
enough that mistrust was one of the most necessary virtues 
of his ofSce, held as a maxim that he should be very slow in 
believing such protestations^ and should be on his guard 
against pre-conceptions ; but it seldom happens that the posi- 
tive afBrmations of a person of such authority, in whatever 
matter, do not give a bias to the mind of those who hear them. 
After the usual salutations : * Signorina,' said he, ' I am com- 
ing to act the part of the tempter; I have com.e to excite 
doubts where your request expresses certainty, to place diffi- 
culties before your eyes, and to assure myself whether you 
have well considered them. .Will you allow me to ask you 
some questions ? ' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 175 

* Proceed/ replied Gertrttde. 

The worthy priest then began to question her in the usual 
prescribed forms. * Do you feel in your heart a free, volun- 
tary resolution to become a nun? Have no threatenings, no 
flatteries been resorted to ? Has no authority been made use 
of to persuade you to this step ? Speak without reserve and 
with perfect sincerity to a man whose duty it is to ascertaiic 
your unbiased will, that he may prevent your being compelled 
hy any exercise of force to take such a course.' 

The true answer to such a demand rose up before Ger- 
trude's mind with fearful distinctness. But to make that 
reply, she must come to an explanation; she must disclose 
what she had been threatened with, and relate a story . . . 
The unhappy girl shrank back in horror from such an idea, 
and tried to find some other reply, which would more speedily 
release her from this unpleasant interview. ' I wish to take 
the veil,' said she, concealing her agitation — ' I wish to take 
the veil at my own desire, voluntarily.' 

' How long have you had this desire ? ' again demanded the 
good priest. 

* I have always felt it, replied Gertrude, rendered after this 
first step more unscrupulous about speaking the truth. 

' But what is the principal motive that induces you to 
become a nun ? ' 

The good priest little knew what a terrible chord he 
was touching; and Gertrude had to make a great effort not 
to betray in her countenance the effect which these words 
produced on her mind, as she replied : * My motive is to 
serve God, and to fly the perils of the v^orld.' 

' May there not have been some disgustt Some . . . 
excuse me . . . some caprice? There are times when a 
passing cause may make an impression that seems at the 
moment sure to be lasting; but afterwards, when the cause 
is removed, and the mind calmed, then . . .' 

* No, no,' replied Gertrude, precipitately, ' the reason is 
exactly what I have told you.' 

The vicar, rather to discharge his duty faithfully than 
because he thought it necessary, persisted in his inquiries; 
but Gertrude was resolved to deceive him. Besides the 
horror she fdt at the thought of making him acquainted 



176 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

with her weakness, when he seemed so far from suspecting 
her of anything of the kind, the poor girl thought that 
though he could certainly easily prevent her taking the 
veil, yet that there was the end of his authority over her, or his 
power of protection. When once he had gone, she would be 
left alone with the Prince, and of what she would then have 
to endure in that house, the worthy priest could know noth- 
ing; or, even if he did, he could only pity her. The examiner 
was tired of questioning, before the unfortunate girl of 
deceiving him; and, finding her replies invariably consistent, 
and having no reason to doubt their sincerity, he at last 
changed his tone, and said all he could to confirm her in 
her good resolution; and, after congratulating her, he took 
his leave. Passing through one of the apartments, he met 
with the Prince, who appeared to fall in with him acci- 
dently, and congratulated him on the good dispositions his 
daughter had displayed. The Prince had been waiting in 
a very wearisome state of suspense, but, on receiving this ac- 
count, he breathed more freely, and, forgetting his usual 
gravity, he almost ran to Gertrude, and loaded her with 
commendations, caresses, and promises, with cordial satis- 
faction, and a tenderness of manner to a great degree sincere. 
Such a strange medley is the human heart! 

We will not follow Gertrude in her continual round of 
sights and amusements, nor will we describe, either gen- 
erally or particularly, the feelings of her mind during this 
period; it would be a history of sorrows and fluctuations 
too monotonous, and too much resembling what we have 
already related. The beauty of the surrounding seats, the 
continual variety of objects, and the pleasant excursions in 
the open air, rendered the idea of the place where she must 
shortly alight for the last time, more odious to her than 
ever. Still more painful were the impressions made upon 
her by the assemblies and amusements of the city. The 
sight of a bride, in the more obvious and common sense of 
the word, aroused in her envy and anguish, to a degree 
almost intolerable; and sometimes the sight of some other 
individual made her feel as if to hear that title given to 
herself would be the height of felicity. There were even 
times when the pomp of palaces, the splendour of orna- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 177 

ments, and the excitement and clamorous festivity of the 
conversazione, so infatuated her, and aroused in her such 
an ardent desire to lead a gay life, that she resolved to 
recant, and to suffer anything rather than turn to the cold 
and death-like shade of the cloister. But all these resolu- 
tions vanished into air, on the calmer consideration of the 
difficulties of such a course, or on merely raising her eyes 
to the Prince's face. Sometimes, too, the thought that she 
must for ever abandon these enjoyments, made even this 
little taste of them bitter and wearisome to her; as the 
patient, suffering with thirst, eyes with vexation, and almost 
refuses with contempt, the spoonful of water the physician 
unwillingly allows him. In the meanwhile, the vicar of the 
nuns had despatched the necessary attestation, and permis- 
sion arrived, to hold the conference for the election of 
Gertrude. The meeting was called; two-thirds of the secret 
votes, which were required by the regulations, were given, 
as was to be expected, and Gertrude was accepted. She 
herself, wearied with this long struggle, begged for im- 
mediate admission into the monastery, and no one came 
forward to oppose such a request. She was therefore 
gratified in her wish; and, after being pompously conducted 
to the monastery, she assumed the habit. After twelve 
months of novitiate, full of alternate regret and repent- 
ings, the time of public confession arrived; that is to say, 
the time when she must either utter a * no,' more strange, 
more unexpected, and more disgraceful than ever; or pro- 
nounce a * yes,' already so often repeated : she pronounced 
it, and became a nun for ever. 

It is one of the peculiar and incommunicable properties 
of the Christian religion, that she can afford guidance and 
repose to all who, under whatever circumstances, or in 
whatever exigence, have recourse to her. If there is a 
remedy for the past, she prescribes it, administers it, and 
lends light and energy to put it in force, at whatever cost; 
if there is none, she teaches how to do that effectually and 
in reality, which the world prescribes proverbially, — make 
a virtue of necessity. She teaches how to continue with 
discretion what is thoughtlessly undertaken; she inclines 
the mind to cleave steadfastly to what was imposed upon it 



178 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

by authority; and imparts to a cbxoice which, though rash at 
the time, is now irrevocable, all the sanctity, all the ad- 
visedness, and, let us say it boldly, all the cheerfulness o£ 
a lawful calling. Here is a path so constructed that, let a 
man approach it by what labyrinth or precipice he may, he 
sets himself, from that moment, to walk in it with security 
and readiness, and at once begins to draw towards a joyful 
end. By this means, Gertrude might have proved a holy 
and contented nun, however she had become one. But, 
instead of this, the unhappy girl struggled under the yoke, 
and thus felt it heavier and more galling. An incessant 
recurrence to her lost libert}^, abhorrence of her present 
condition, and a wearisome clinging to desires which could 
never be satisfied: these were the principal occupations of 
her mind. She recalled, over and over again, the bitter- 
ness of the past, rearranged in her mind all the circum- 
stances by which she had reached her present situation, and 
undid in thought a thousand times what she had done in 
act. She accused herself of vv^ant of spirit, and others of 
tyranny and perfidy, and pined in secret: she idolized and, 
at the same time, bewailed her beauty; deplored a youth 
destined to struggle in a prolonged martyrdom; and envied, 
at times, any woman, in whatever rank, with whatever 
acquirements, who could freely enjoy these gifts in the 
v/orld. 

The sight of those nuns who had co-operated in bringing 
her hither was hateful to her: she remembered the arts 
and contrivances they had made use of, and repaid them 
with incivilities, caprices, and even with open reproaches. 
These they were obliged to bear in silence; for though 
the Prince was willing enough to tyrannize over his daugh- 
ter v»^hen he found it necessary to force her into the clois- 
ter, yet having once obtained his purpose, he would not so 
willingly allow others to assume authority over one of his 
family; and any little rumour that might have reached his 
ears would have been an occasion of their losing his pro- 
tection, or perhaps, unfortunately, of changing a protector 
into an enemy. It would seem that she might have felt 
some kind of leaning towards those other sisters who had 
not lent a hand in this foul system of intrigue, and who, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 179 

without having desired her for a companion, loved her as 
such; and, always good, busy, and cheerful, showed her, 
by their example, that here too^ it was possible not only to 
live, but to be happy: but these, also, were hateful to her, 
for another reason: their consistent piety and contentment 
seemed to cast a reproof upon her disquietude and wayr 
wardness; so that she never suffered an opportunity to 
escape of deriding them behind their backs as bigots, or 
reviling them as hypocrites. Perhaps she would have been 
less averse to them, had she known, or guessed, that the 
few black balls found in the urn which decided her accept- 
ance, had been put there by these very sisters. 

She sometimes felt a little satisfaction in commanding, 
in being courted by those within the monastery and visited 
most flatteringly by those without, in accomxplishing some 
undertaking, in extending her protection, in hearing herself 
styled the Signora; but what consolations were these? The 
mind which feels their insufficiency w^ould gladly, at times, 
add to them, and enjoy with them, the consolations of re- 
ligion: yet the one cannot be obtained by renouncing the 
other ; as a shipwrecked sailor, who would cling to the plank 
which is to bring him safely to shore, must relinquish his 
hold on the unsubstantial sea-weed which natural instinct 
had taught him to grasp. 

Shortly after finally taking the veil, Gertrude had been 
appointed teacher of the young people v^ho attended the 
convent for education, and it may easily be imagined what 
would be their situation under such discipline. Her early 
companions had all left, but the passions called into exer- 
cise by them still remained ; and, in one way or the other, the 
pupils were compelled to feel their full weight. When she 
remembered that many of them were destined to that course 
of life of which she had lost every hope, she indulged 
against the poor children a feeling of rancour, which 
almost amounted to a desire of vengeance. This feel-* 
ing she manifested by keeping them under, irritating them, 
and depreciating in anticipation the pleasures which they 
one day hoped to enjoy. Any one who had heard with 
what arrogant displeasure she rebuked them at such times 
for any little fault, would have imagined her a woman of 



180 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

undisciplined and injudicious temper. On other occasions, 
the same hatred for the rules and discipline of the cloister 
was displayed in fits of temper entirely different: then, she 
not only supported the noisy diversions of her pupils, but 
excited them; she would mingle in their games, and make 
them more disorderly; and, joining in their conversations, 
would imperceptibly lead them far beyond their intended 
limits. If one of them happened to allude to the Lady 
Abbess's love of gossiping, their teacher would imitate it at 
length, and act it like a scene in a comedy; would mimic 
the expression of one nun and the manners of another; and 
on these occasions would laugh immoderately ; but her laugh- 
ter came not from her heart. Thus she passed several years 
of her life, with neither leisure nor opportunity to make any 
change, until, to her misfortune, an occasion unhappily 
presented itself. 

Among other privileges and distinctions accorded to her 
as a compensation for her not being abbess, was the special 
grant of a bed-chamber in a separate part of the monastery. 
This side of the building adjoined a house inhabited by a 
young man of professedly abandoned character; one of the 
many who, in those days, by the help of their retinues of 
bravoes, and by combinations with other villains, were 
enabled, up to a certain point, to set at defiance public force, 
and the authority of the laws. Our manuscript merely 
gives him the name of Egidio. This man, having, from a 
little window which overlooked the court-yard, seen Ger- 
trude occasionally passing, or idly loitering there, and al- 
lured, rather than intimidated, by the dangers and impiety 
of the act, ventured one day to address her. The miserable 
girl replied. At first she experienced a lively, but not un- 
mixed satisfaction. Into the painful void of her soul was 
infused a powerful and continual stimulus; a fresh principle, 
as it were, of vitality; but this enjoyment was like the 
restorative draught which the ingenious cruelty of the 
ajicients presented to a condemned criminal, to strengthen 
him to bear the agonies of martyrdom. A great change, at 
the same time, was observable in her whole deportment^ 
she became all at once more regular and tranquil, less 
bitter and sarcastic, and even showed herself friendly and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 181 

affable; so that the sisters congratulated each other on the 
happy change; so far were they from imagining the real 
cause, and from understanding that this new virtue was 
nothing else than hypocrisy added to her former failings. 
This improvement, however, this external cleansing, so to 
speak, lasted but a short time, at least with any steadiness 
or consistency. She soon returned to her accustomed scorn 
and caprice, and renewed her imprecations and raillery 
against her cloistral prison, expressed sometimes in lan- 
guage hitherto unheard in that place, and from those lips. 
Nevertheless, a season of repentance succeeded each out- 
break, and an endeavour to atone for it and wipe out its 
remembrance by additional courtesies and kindness. The 
sisters were obliged to bear all these vicissitudes as they 
best could, and attributed them to the wayward and fickle 
disposition of the Signora. 

For some time no one seemed to think any longer about 
these matters; but one day the Signora, having had a dis- 
pute with a lay-sister for some trifling irregularity, con- 
tinued to insult her so long beyond her usual bounds, that 
the sister, after having for some time gnawed the bit in 
silence, could no longer keep her patience, and threw out a 
hint that she knew something, and would reveal it when 
an opportunity occurred. Erom that moment the Signora 
had no peace. It was not long after that, one morning, 
the sister was in vain expected at her usual employment; 
she was sought in her cell, but fruitlessly; she was called 
loudly by many voices, but there was no reply; she was 
hunted and sought for diligently, here and there, above, 
below, from the cellar to the roof; but she was nowhere 
to be found. And who knows what conjectures might have 
been made, if, in searching for her, it had not happened 
that a large hole was discovered in the garden wall, "which 
induced every one to think that she had made her escape 
thence. Messengers were immediately despatched in various 
directions to overtake her and bring her back; every 
inquiry was made in the surrounding country; but there 
was never the slightest information about her. Perhaps 
they might have known more of her fate, had they, instead 
of seeking at a distance, dug ug the ground near at hand. 



182 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

After many expressions of surprise, because they never 
thought her a Hkely woman for such a deed; after many 
arguments, they concluded that she must have fled to some 
very great distance; and because a sister happened once 
to say, ' She must certainly have taken refuge in Holland/ 
it was ever after said and maintained in the monastery 
that she had fled to Holland. The Signora, however, did 
not seem to be of this opinion. Not that she manifested 
any disbelief, or opposed the prevailing idea with her 
particular reasons; if she had any, certainly never were 
reasons better concealed; nor was there anything from 
which she more willingly abstained, than from alluding to 
this event, nor any matter in which she was less desirous 
to come to the bottom of the mystery. But the less she 
spoke of it^ the more did it occupy her thoughts. How 
often during the day did the im.age of the ill-fated nun rush 
unbidden into her mind, and fix itself there, not easily to 
be removed ! How often did she long to see the real and 
living being before her, rather than have her always in her 
thoughts, rather than be day and night in the company of 
that empty, terrible, impassible form ! How often would 
she gladly have listened to her real voice, and borne her 
rebukes, whatever they might threaten, rather than be for 
ever haunted in the depths of her mental ear by the im- 
aginary whisperings of that same voice, and hear words to 
which it was useless to reply^ repeated with a pertinacity 
and an indefatigable perseverance of which no living being 
was ever capable ! 

It was about a year after this event, that Lucia was pre- 
sented to the Signora, and had the interview with her which 
we have described. The Signora multiplied her inquiries 
about Don Rodrigo's persecution, and entered into par- 
ticulars with a boldness which must have appeared worse 
than novel to Lucia, who had never imagined that the 
turiosity of nuns could be exercised on such subjects. The 
opinions also which were mingled with these inquiries, or 
which she allowed to appear, were not less stramge. She 
seemed almost to ridicule Lucia's great horror for the 
nobleman, and asked whether he were deformed, that he 
excited so much fear; and would have esteemed her retir- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 183 

ing disposition almost irrational and absurd, if she had not 
beforehand given the preference to Renzo. And on this 
choice, too, she multiplied questions which astonished the 
poor girl, and put her to the blush. Perceiving, however, 
afterwards, that she had given too free expression to her 
imagination, she tried to correct and interpret her language 
differently; but she could not divest Lucia's mind of a 
disagreeable wonder, and confused dread. No sooner did 
the poor girl find herself alone with her mother, than she 
opened her whole mind to her; but Agnese, being more 
experienced, in a very few words quieted her doubts, and 
solved the mystery. * Don't be surprised,' said she ; ' when 
you know the world as well as I, you'll not think it any- 
thing very wonderful. Great people — some more, some 
less, some one way, and some another, — have all a little 
oddity. We must let them talk, particularly when we have 
need of them; we must pretend to be listening to them 
seriously, as if they were saying very bright things. Didn't 
you hear how she silenced me, almost as if I had uttered 
some great nonsense? I was not a bit surprised at it. 
They are all so. However, Heaven be praised, that she 
seems to have taken such a fancy to you, and will really 
protect us. As to the rest, if you live, my child, and it 
falls to your lot to have anything more to do with gentle- 
men, you'll understand it, you'll understand it.' 

A desire to oblige the Father-guardian; the pleasure of 
extending protection; the thought of the good opinions 
that would result from so charitable an exercise of that 
protection; a certain inclination for Lucia, added to a kind 
of relief she would feel in doing a kindness to an innocent 
creature, and in assisting and comforting the oppressed, 
were the inducements which had really inclined the Signora 
to take an interest in the fate of these two poor fugitives. 
In obedience to the orders she gave, and from regard to 
the anxiety she displayed, they were lodged in the apart- 
ments of the portress, adjoining the cloister, and treated 
as if they were admitted into the service of the monastery. 
Both mother and daughter congratulated themselves on 
having so soon found a secure and honourable asylum, 
and would gladly have remained unknown by every one; 



184 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

but this was not easy in a monastery, more especially when 
there was a man determined to get information about one 
of them; in whose mind vexation at having been foiled 
and deceived was added to his former passions and desires. 
Leaving the two women, then, in their retreat, we will 
return to this wretch's palace, while he was waiting the 
result of his iniquitous undertaking. 



CHAPTER XI 

AS a pack of hounds, after In vain tracking a hare, return 
l\ desponding to their master, with heads hung down, 
-* — j^ and drooping tails, so, on this disastrous night, did the 
bravoes return to the palace of Don Rodrigo. He was list- 
lessly pacing to and fro, in an unoccupied room up-stairs 
that overlooked the terrace. Now and then he would stop 
to listen, or to peep through the chinks in the decayed win- 
dow-frames, full of impatience, and not entirely free from 
disquietude — not only for the doubtfulness of success, but 
also for the possible consequences of the enterprise: this 
being the boldest and most hazardous in which our valiant 
cavalier had ever engaged. He endeavoured, however, to 
reassure himself with the thought of the precautions he had 
taken that not a trace of the perpetrator should be left. 'As 
to suspicions, I care nothing for them. I should like to know 
who would be inclined to come hither, to ascertain if there 
be a young girl here or not. Let him dare to come — the 
rash fool — and he shall be well received ! Let the friar 
come, if he pleases. The old woman? She shall be off to 
Bergam.o. Justice? Poh ! Justice! The PoJ^^^a is neither 
a child nor a fool. And at Milan ? Who will care for these 
people at Milan? Who will listen to them? Who knows 
even what they are ? They are like lost people in the world, 
— they haven't even a master : they belong to no one. Come, 
come, never fear. How Attilio will be silenced to-morrow ! 
He shall see whether I am a man to talk and boast. And 
then ... If any difficulty should ensue . . . What do I 
know? Any enemy who would seize this occasion . . , 
Attilio will be able to advise me; he is pledged to 
it for the honour of the whole family.' But the idea 
on which he dwelt most, because he found it both a 
soother of his doubts and a nourisher of his predominating 
passion, was the thought of the flatteries and promises he 
would employ to gain over Lucia. * She will be so terrified 
at finding herself here alone, in the midst of these faces, that 

185 



186 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

, . in troth, mine is the most human among" them . . » 
that she will look to me, will throw herself upon her knees 
t© pray ; and if she prays . . .' 

While indulging in these fine anticipations, he hears a 
footstep, goes to the window, opens it a little, and peeps 
through : * It is they. And the litter ! — Where is the litter ? 
Three, five, eight; they are all there; there's Griso too; the 
litter's not there : — Griso shall give me an account of this/ 

When they reached the house, Griso deposited his staff, 
cap, and pilgrim's habit, in a corner of the ground-floor 
apartment, and, as if carrying a burden which no one at 
the moment envied him, ascended to render his account 
to Don Rodrigo. He was w^aiting for him at the head of 
the stairs ; and on his approaching with the foolish and av/k- 
ward air of a deluded villain, ' Well,' said, or rather 
vociferated, he, * Signor Boaster, Signor Captain, Signor 
Leave-it-to-me f 

* It is hard,' replied Griso, resting one foot on the top 
step, ' it is hard to be greeted v/ith reproaches after having 
laboured faithfully, and endeavoured to do one's duty, at 
the risk of one's life.' 

* How has it gone ? Let us hear, let us hear,' said Don 
Rodrigo; and, turning towards his room, Griso followed 
him, and briefly related how he had arranged, what he had 
done, seen and not seen, heard, feared, and retrieved; re- 
lating it with that order and that confusion, that dubiousness 
and that astonishment, which must necessarily have together 
taken possession of his ideas. 

* You are not to blamxC, and have done your best,' said Don 
Rodrigo. * You have done what you could ; but . . . but, 
if under this roof there be a spy ! If there be, if I succeed 
in discovering him (and you may rest assured I'll discover 
him if he's here), I'll settle matters with him; I promise 
you, Griso, I'll pay him as he deserves.' 

'The same suspicion, Signor,' replied he, 'has crossed 
ttiy mind ; and if it be true, and we discover a villain of this 
isort, my master should put it into my hands. One who has 
diverted himself by making me pass such a night as this; 
it is my business to pay him for it. However, all things 
considered, it seems likely there may have been some othetr 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 187 

cross purposes, which now we cannot fathotn. CTo'-morrow, 
Signor, to-morrow we shall be in clear water.' 

* Do you think you have been recognized ? ' 

Griso replied that he hoped not ; and the conclusion of the 
interview was, that Don Rodrigo ordered him to do three 
things next day, which he would have thought of well 
enough by himself. OnQ was, to despatch two men, in good 
time in the morning, to the constable, with the intimation 
which we have already noticed ; tv/o others to the old house, 
to ramble about, and keep at a proper distance any loiterer 
who might happen to come there, and to conceal the litter 
from every eye till nightfall, when they would send to fetch 
it, since it would not do to excite suspicion by any further 
measures at present; and lastly, to go himself on a tour of 
discover)'-, and despatch several others, of the most dexterity 
and good sense, on the same errand, that he might learn 
something of the causes and issue of the confusion of the 
night. Having given these orders, Don Rodrigo retired to 
bed, leaving Griso to follow his example, bidding him good 
night, and loading him with praises, through which appeared 
an evident desire to make some atonement, and in a manner 
to apologize for the precipitate haste with which he had 
reproached him on his arrival. 

Go, take some rest, poor Griso, for thou must surely 
need it. Poor Griso ! Labouring hard all day, labouring 
hard half the night, v/ithout counting the danger of falling 
into the hands of villains, or of having a price set upon thy 
head 'for the seizure of an honest woman/ in addition to 
those already laid upon thee, and then to be received in this 
manner ! but thus men often reward their fellows. Thou 
mightest, nevertheless, see in this instance, that sometimes 
people judge according to merit, and that matters are ad- 
justed even in this world. Go, rest awhile; for some day 
thou mayest be called upon to give another and more con- 
siderable proof of thy faithfulness. 

Next morning, Griso was again surrounded with business 
on all hands, when Don Rodrigo rose. This nobleman 
quickly sought Count Attilio, who, the moment he saw him 
approach, called out to him, Vv^ith a look and gesture of rail- 
lery, * Saint Martin I' 



188 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* I have nothing to say/ replied Don Rodrigo, as he drew 
near : ' I will pay the wager ; but it is not this that vexes me 
most. I told you nothing about it, because, I confess, I 
thought to surprise you this morning. But . . . stay, I will 
tell you all.' 

* That friar has a hand in this business,' said his cousin, 
after having listened to the account with suspense and 
wonderment, and with more seriousness than could have 
been expected from a man of his temperament. ' I always 
thought that friar, with his dissembling and out-of-the-way 
answers, was a knave and a hypocrite. And you never 
opened yourself to me, — you never told me plainly what 
happened to entertain you the other day.' Don Rodrigo re- 
lated the conversation. 'And did you submit to that ? ' ex- 
claimed Count Attilio. * Did you let him go away as he 
came ? ' 

* Would you have me draw upon myself all the Capu- 
chins of Italy ? ' 

' I don't know,' said Attilio, * whether I should have re- 
membered, at that moment, that there was another Capuchin 
in the world except this daring knave; but surely, even 
under the rules of prudence, there must be some way of get- 
ting satisfaction even on a Capuchin! We must manage 
to redouble civilities cleverly to the whole body, and then 
iwe can give a blow to one member with impunity. However, 
the fellow has escaped the punishment he best deserved ; but 
I'll take him under my protection, and have the gratification 
of teaching him how to talk to gentlemen such as we are.' 

* Don't make matters worse for me.' 

* Trust me for once, and I'll serve you like a relation and 
a friend.' 

* What do you intend to do ? * 

'* I don't know yet ; but rest assured I'll pay off the friar. 
I'll think about it, and „ . . my uncle, the Signor Count of 
the Privy Council, will be the man to help me. Dear uncle 
Count ! How fine it is, when I can make a politician of his 
stamp do all my work for me! The day after to-morrow 
I shall be at Milan, and, in one way or other, the friar shall 
be rewarded.' 

In the mean while breakfast was announced, which, how^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 189 

ever, made no interruption in the discussion of an affair of 
so much importance. Count Attilio talked about it freely; 
and though he took that side which his friendship to his 
cousin and the honour of his name required, according to 
his ideas of friendship and honour, yet he could not help 
occasionally finding something to laugh at in the ill-success 
of his relative and friend. But Don Rodrigo, who felt it 
was his own cause, and who had so signally failed when 
hoping quietly to strike a great blow, was agitated by 
stronger passions, and distracted by more vexatious thoughts. 

* Fine talk,' said he, * these rascals will make in the neigh- 
bourhood. But what do I care? As to justice, I laugh at it: 
there is no proof against me, and even if there were, I 
should care for it just as little: the constable was warned 
this morning to take good heed, at the risk of his life, that 
he makes no deposition of what has happened. Nothing will 
follow from it ; but gossiping, when carried to any length, is 
very annoying to me. It's quite enough that I have been 
bulHed so unmercifully.' 

' You did quite rightly,' replied Count Attilio. * Your 
Podesta ... an obstinate, empty-pated, prosing fellow, that 
Podesta ... is nevertheless a gentleman, a man who knows 
his duty; and it is just when we have to do with such people, 
that we must take care not to bring them into difficulties. If 
that rascal of a constable should make a deposition, the 
Podesta, however well-intentioned, would be obliged . . .' 

* But you,' interrupted Don Rodrigo, with some warmth, 

* you spoil all my affairs by contradicting him in everything, 
by silencing him, and laughing at him on every occasion. 
Why cannot a Podesta be an obstinate fool, when at the 
same time he is a gentleman ? ' 

' Do you know, cousin,' said Count Attilio, glancing to- 
wards him a look of raillery and surprise ; ' do you know 
that I begin to think you are half afraid? In earnest, you 
may rest assured that the Podesta . . .' 

'Well, well, didn't you yourself say that we must be 
careful . . . ? ' 

* I did : and when it is a serious matter, I'll let you see 
that I'm not a child. Do you know all that I have courage 
to do for you? I am ready to go in person to this Signor 



190 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Podesta. Aha ! how proud he will be of the honour ! And 
I am ready, moreover, to let him talk for half an hour about 
tlie Count Duke, and the Spanish Signor, the governor of 
the castle, and to give an ear to everything, even when he 
talks so mightily about these people. Then I will throw in 
a few words about my uncle, the Signor Coimt of the Privy 
Council, and you will see what effect these words in the ear 
of the Signor Podesta will produce. After all, he has more 
need of our protection than you of his condescension. I will 
do my best, and will go to him, and leave him better dis- 
posed towards you than ever.' 

After these, and a few similar words. Count Attilio set off 
on his expedition, and Don Rodrigo remained awaiting with 
anxiety Griso's return. Towards dinner-time he made his 
appearance, and reported the success of his reconnoitering 
tour. 

The tumult of the preceding night had been so clamorous, 
the disappearance of three persons from a village was so 
Strange an occurrence, that the inquiries, both from interest 
and curiosity, would naturally be many, eager, and persever- 
ing; and, on the other hand, those who knew something 
were too mmierous to agree in maintaining silence on the 
matter. Perpetua could not set foot out of doors without 
being assailed by one or another to know what it was that 
liad so alarmed her master, and she herself, reviewing and 
comparing all the circumstances of the case, and perceiving 
how she had been imposed upon by Agnese, felt so much 
indignation at the act of perfidy, that she was ever ready 
to give vent to her feelings. Not that she complained to this 
or that person of the manner in which she was imposed 
upon: on this subject she did not breathe a syllable; but the 
trick played upon her poor master she could not altogether 
pass over in silence; especially as such a trick had been 
concerted and attempted by that gentle creature, that good 
youth, and that worthy widow. Don Abbondio, indeed, might 
positively forbid her, and earnestly entreat her to be silent; 
and she could easily enough reply that there was no need 
to urge upon her what was so clear and evident ; but certain 
it is that such a secret in the poor woman's breast was like 
very new wine in an old and badly hooped cask, which fer- 



T PROMESSI SPOSI 191 

ments, and bubbles, and boils, and if it does not send the 
bung into the air, works itself about till it issues in froth, 
and penetrates between the staves, and oozes out in drops 
here and there, so that one can taste it, and almost decide 
what kind of wine it is. Gervase, who could scarcely believe 
that for once he was better informed than his neighbours, 
who thought it no little glory to have been a sharer in such 
a scene of terror, and who fancied himself a man like the 
others, from having knt a hand in an enterprise that bore 
the appearance of criminality, was dying to make a boast of 
it. And though Tonio, who thought with some dread of the 
inquiries, the possible processes, and the account that would 
have to be rendered, gave him many injunctions with his 
finger upon his lips, yet it was not possible to silence every 
word. Even Tonio himself, after having been absent from 
home that night at- an unusual hour, and returning with an 
unusual step and air, and an excitement of mind that dis- 
posed him to candour, — even he could not dissimulate the 
matter with his wife; and she was not dumb. The person 
who talked least was Menico; for no sooner had he related 
to his parents the history and the object of his expedition, 
than it appeared to them so terrible a thing that their son had 
been employed in frustrating an undertaking of Don Rod- 
rigo's, that they scarcely suffered the boy to finish his narra- 
tion. They then gave him most strenuous and threatening 
orders to take good heed that he did not give the least hint 
of anything; and the next morning, not yet feeling suffi- 
ciently confident in him, they resolved to keep him shut up 
in the house for at least that day, and perhaps even longer. 
But what then? They themselves afterwards, in chatting 
with their neighbours, without wishing to show that they 
knew more than others, yet when they came to that mysteri- 
ous point in the flight of the three fugitives, and the how, and 
the why, and the where, added, almost as a well-known thing, 
that they had fled to Pescarenico. Thus this circumstance 
also was generally noised abroad. 

With all these scraps oi information, put together and 
compared as usual, and with the embellishments naturally 
attached to such relations, there were grounds for a story 
of more certainty and clearness than common, and such as 



192 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

might have contented the most criticizing mind. But the 
invasion of the bravoes — an event too serious and notorious 
to be left out, and one on which nobody had any positive 
information — was what rendered the story dark and per- 
plexing. The name of Don Rodrigo was whispered about; 
and so far all were agreed; but beyond, everything was ob- 
scurity and dissension. Much was said about the two 
bravoes who had been seen in the street towards evening, 
and of the other who had stood at the inn door; but what 
light could be drawn from this naked fact? They inquired 
of the landlord, ' Who had been there the night before ? ' but 
the landlord could not even remember that he had seen any- 
body that evening; and concluded his answer, as usual, with 
the remark that his inn was like a sea-port. Above all, the 
pilgrim seen by Stefano and Carlandrea puzzled their heads 
and disarranged their conjectures — that pilgrim whom the 
robbers were murdering, and who had gone away with them, 
or whom they had carried off — what could he be doing ? He 
was a good spirit come to the aid of the women ; he was the 
wicked spirit of a roguish pilgrim-impostor, who always 
came by night to join such companions, and perform such 
deeds, as he had been accustomed to when alive; he was a 
living and true pilgrim, whom they attempted to murder, 
because he was preparing to arouse the village; he was (just 
see what they went so far as to conjecture!) one of these 
very villains, disguised as a pilgrim ; he was this, he was that ; 
he was so many things, that all the sagacity and experience 
of Griso would not have sufficed to discover who he was, 
if he had been obliged to glean this part of the story from 
others. But, as the reader knows, that which rendered it so 
perplexing to others, was exactly the clearest point to him; 
and serving as a key to interpret the other notices, either 
gathered immediately by himself, or through the medium of 
his subordinate spies, it enabled him to lay before Don Rod- 
rigo a report sufficiently clear and connected. Closeted with 
him, he told him of the blow attempted by the poor lovers, 
which naturally accounted for his finding the house empty, 
and the ringing of the bell, without which they would have 
been obliged to suspect traitors (as these two worthy men 
expressed it) in the house. He told him of the flight; and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 193 

for this, too, it was easy to find more than one reason — the 
fear of the lovers on being taken in a fault, or some rumour 
of their invasion, when it was discovered, and the village 
roused. Lastly, he told him that they had gone to Pesca- 
renico, but further than this his knov/ledge did not extend. 
Don Rodrigo was pleased to be assured that no one had 
betrayed him, and to find that no traces remained of his 
enterprise ; but it was a light and passing pleasure. * Fled 
together ! ' cried he : ' together ! And that rascally friar ! — 
that friar ! ' The word burst forth hoarsely from, his throat, 
and half-smothered between his teeth, as he bit his nails 
with vexation : his countenance was as brutal as his passion, 
* That friar shall answer for it. Griso, I am not myself . . . 
I must know, I must find out . . . this night I must know 
where they are. I have no peace. To Pescarenico directly, 
to know, to see, to find . . . Four crowns on the spot, and 
my protection for ever. This night I must know. And that 
villain ! . . . that friar . . .' 

Once more Griso was in the field; and in the evening 
of that same day he could impart to his worthy patron the 
desired information, and by this means. 

One of the greatest consolations of this world is friend- 
ship, and one of the pleasures of friendship is to have some 
one to whom we may entrust a secret. Now, friends are 
not divided into pairs, as husband and wife : everybody, gen- 
erally speaking, has more than one; and this forms a chain 
of which no one can find the first link. When, then, a friend 
meets with an opportunity of depositing a secret in the 
breast of another, he, in his turn, seeks to share in the 
same pleasure. He is entreated, to be sure, to say nothing 
to anybody ; and such a condition, if taken in the strict sense 
of the words, would immediately cut short the chain of these 
gratifications: but general practice has determined that it 
only forbids the entrusting of a secret to everybody but 
one equally confidential friend, imposing upon him, of 
course, the same conditions. Thus, from confidential friend 
to confidential friend, the secret threads its way along this 
immense chain, until, at last, it reaches the ear of him or 
them whom the first speaker exactly intended it should never 
reach. However, it would, generally, have to be a long 

HC 7— Vol. 21 



194 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

time on the way, if everybody had but tv/o friends, the one 
who tells him, and the one to whom he repeats it with the 
in j miction of silence. But some highly favoured men there 
are who reckon these blessings by the hundred, and when 
the secret comes into the hands of one of these, the circles 
multiply so rapidly that it is no longer possible to pursue 
them. 

Our author has been unable to certify through how many 
mouths the secret had passed which Griso was ordered 
to discover, but certain it is that the good man who had 
escorted the women to Monza, returning in his cart to Pes- 
carenico, towards evening, happened, before reaching home, 
to light upon one of these trustv/orthy friends, to whom he 
related, in confidence, the good vvork he had just completed, 
and its sequel ; and it is equally certain that, tv/o hours after- 
wards, Griso was able to return to the palace, and inform 
Don Rodrigo that Lucia and her mother had found refuge 
in a convent at Monza, and that Renzo had pursued his way 
to Milan. 

Don Rodrigo felt a malicious satisfaction on hearing of 
this separation, and a revival of hope that he might at length 
accomplish his v/icked designs. He spent great part of the 
night in meditating on his plans, and arose early in the morn- 
ing with two projects in his mind, the one determined upon, 
the other only roughly sketched out. The first v/as immedi- 
ately to despatch Griso to Monza, to learn more particular 
tidings of Lucia^ and to know v/hat (if anything) he might 
attempt. He therefore instantly sum^moned this faithful ser- 
vant, placed in his hand four crowns, again com^mended him 
for the ability by which he had earned them, and gave him the 
order he had been premeditating. 

* Signor . . .' said Griso, feeling his way. 
' What ? haven't I spoken clearly ? ' 

* If you would send somebody . . .' 
'How?' 

* Most illustrious Signor, I am ready to give my life for 
my master : it is my duty ; but I know also you would not be 
willing unnecessarily to risk that of your dependents.' 

'Well?' 

'Your illustrious lordship knows very well how many 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 195 

prices are already set upon my head; and . . . here I am 
under the protection of your lordship; we are a party; the 
Signor Podesta is a friend of the family; the bailiffs bear me 
some respect; and I, too ... it is a thing that does me little 
honour — but to live quietly ... I treat them as friends. In 
Milan, your lordship's livery is known; but in Monza I am 
known there instead. And is your lordship av\^are that — I 
don't say it to make a boast of myself — that any one who 
could hand me over to justice, or deliver in my head, would 
strike a great blow. A hundred crowns at once, and the 
privilege of liberating two banditti.' 

' What ! ' exclaimed Don Rodrigo, with an oath : ' you 
showing yourself a vile cur that has scarcely courage to fly 
at the legs of a passer-by, looking behind him for fear they 
should shut the door upon him, and not daring to leave it 
four yards I ' 

* I think, Signor patron, that I have given proof . . .' 
' Then ! ' 

* Then,' frankly replied Griso, when thus brought to the 
point, ' then your lordship will be good enough to reckon 
as if I had never spoken : heart of a lion, legs of a hare, and 
I am ready to set off.' 

* And I didn't say you should go alone. Take with you 
two of the bravest . . . lo Sfregiato,^ and il Tiradritto:^ go 
with a good heart, and be our own Griso. What ! three faces 
like yours, quietly passing by, who do you think wouldn't be 
glad to let them pass ? The bailiffs at Monza must needs be 
weary of life to stake against it a hundred crowns in so 
hazardous a game. And, besides, don't you think I am so 
utterly unknown there, that a servant of mine would be 
counted as nobody.' 

After thus shaming Griso a little, he proceeded to give him 
more ample and particular instructions. Griso took his two 
companions, and set off with a cheerful and hardy look, but 
cursing, in the bottom of his heart, Monza, and interdicts, 
and women, and the fancies of patrons ; he walked on like a 
wolf which, urged by hunger, his body emaciated, and the 
furrows of his ribs impressed upon his grey hide, descends 
from the mountains, where everything is covered with snow, 
* Cut-face. 3 Aim-well. 



196 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

proceeds suspiciously along the plain, stops, from time to time, 
with uplifted foot, and waves his hairless tail; 

'Raises his nose, and snuffs the faithless wind.* 

i£ perchance it may bring him the scent of man or beast; 
erects his sharp ears, and rolls around two sanguinary eyes, 
from which shine forth both eagerness for the prey and terror 
of pursuit. If the reader wishes to know whence I have got 
this fine line, it is taken from a small unpublished work on 
Crusaders and Lombards, which will shortly be published, 
and make a great stir; and I have borrowed it because it 
suited my purpose, and told where I got it, that I might not 
take credit due to others : so let no one think it a plan of mine 
to proclaim that the author of this little book and I are like 
brothers, and that I rummage at will among his manuscripts. 
The other project of Don Rodrigo's, was the devising of 
some plan to prevent Renzo's again rejoining Lucia, or setting 
foot in that part of the country. He therefore resolved to 
spread abroad rumours of threats and snares, which, coming 
to his hearing through some friend, might deprive him of any 
wish to return to that neighbourhood. He thought, however, 
that the surest way of doing this would be to procure his ban- 
ishment by the state; and to succeed in his project, he felt 
that law would be more likely to answer his purpose than 
force. He could, for example, give a little colouring to the 
attempt made at the parsonage, paint it as an aggressive and 
seditious act, and, by means of the doctor, signify to the 
Podesta that this was an opportunity of issuing an appre- 
hension against Renzo. But our deliberator quickly perceived 
that it would not do for him to meddle in this infamous 
negotiation; and, without pondering over it any longer, he 
resolved to open his mind to Doctor Azzecca-Garbugli ; so 
far, that is, as was necessary to make him acquainted with 
his desire. — There are so many edicts ! thought Don Rodrigo : 
and the Doctor's not a goose: he will be sure to find some- 
thing to suit my purpose — some quarrel to pick with this 
rascally fellow of a weaver: otherwise he must give up his 
name. — But (how strangely matters are brought about in this 
world!) while Don Rodrigo was thus fixing upon the doctor, 
as the man most able to serve him, another person, one that 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 197 

nobody would imagine, even Renzo himself, was labouring, so 
to say, with all his heart, to serve him, in a far more certain 
and expeditious way than any the doctor could possibly have 
devised. 

I have often seen a child, more active, certainly, than needs 
be, but at every movement giving earnest of becoming, some 
day, a brave man : I have often, I say, seen such a one busied, 
towards evening, in driving to cover a drove of little Indian 
pigs, which had been allowed all day to ramble about in a 
field or orchard. He would try to make them all enter the fold 
in a drove ; but it was labour in vain : one would strike off to 
the right, and while the little drover was running to bring 
him back into the herd, another, or two, or three, would start 
off to the left, in every direction. So that, after getting out 
of all patience, he at last adapted himself to their ways, first 
driving in those which were nearest to the entrance, and then 
going to fetch the others, one or two at a time, as they hap- 
pened to have strayed away. A similar game we are obliged 
to play with our characters ; — having sheltered Lucia, we ran 
to Don Rodrigo, and now we must leave him to receive Renzo, 
who meets us in our way. 

After the mournful separation we have related, he pro- 
ceeded from Monza towards Milan, in a state of mind our 
readers can easily imagine. To leave his own dwelling ; and, 
what was worse, his native village; and, what was worse 
still, Lucia; to find himself on the high road, without know- 
ing where he was about to lay his head, and all on account of 
that villain! When this image presented itself to Renzo's 
mind, he would be quite swallowed up with rage and the de- 
sire of vengeance; but then he would recollect the prayer 
which he had joined in offering up with the good friar in the 
church at Pescarenico, and repent of his anger ; then he would 
again be roused to indignation; but seeing an image in the 
wall, he would take off his hat, and stop a moment to repeat 
a prayer; so that during this journey he had killed Don 
Rodrigo, and raised him to life again, at least twenty times. 
The road here was completely buried between two high banks, 
muddy, stony, furrowed with deep cart-ruts, which, after a 
shower, became perfect streams; and where these did not 
iform a sufficient bed for the water, the whole road was in^ 



198 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

undated and reduced to a pool, so as to be almost impassable. 
At such places, a steep foot-path, in the form of steps, up 
the bank, indicated that other passengers had made a track 
in the fields. Renzo mounted by one of these passes to the 
more elevated ground, and, looking around him, beheld the 
noble pile of the cathedral towering alone above the plain, 
not as if standing in the midst of a city, but rather as though 
it rose from a desert. He paused, forgetful of all his sor- 
rows, and contemplated thus at a distance that eighth wonder 
of the world, of which he had heard so much from his in- 
fancy. But turning round, after a moment or two, he beheld 
along the horizon that rugged ridge of mountains : he beheld, 
distinct and elevated am.ong these, his own Resegone, and 
felt his blood curdle within him; then indulging for a fev/ 
minutes in a mournful look in that direction, he slowly and 
sadly turned rounds and continued his way. By degrees, he 
began to discern belfries and towers, cupolas and roofs ; then 
descending into the road, he walked forward for a long time ; 
and, v/hen he found that he was near the city, accosted a 
passenger, and making a low bow, with the best politeness 
he v/as m^aster of, said to him, * Will you be kind enough, 
Simor . . . ? * 

' What do you want, my brave youth ? ' 

' Can you direct me the shortest way to the Capuchin 
Convent where Father Bonaventura lives?' 

The person to whom Renzo addressed himself was a 
wealthy resident in the neighbourhood, who having been 
that morning to Milan on business, was returning with- 
out having done anything, in great haste to reach his home 
before dark, and therefore quite willing to escape this de- 
tention. Nevertheless, without betraying any impatience, 
he courteously replied : ' My good friend, there are many 
miore convents than one; you must tell me more clearly 
which one you are seeking.' Renzo then drew from his 
bosom Father Cristoforo's letter, and showed it to the 
gentleman, who having read the address ; * Porta Orientale,' 
said he, returning it to him; *you are fortunate, young 
man; the convent you want is not far hence. Take this 
narrow street to the left; it is a by-way; not far off you 
will come to the corner of a long and low building: this iS 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 199 

the Lazaretto; follow the moat that surrounds it, and you 
will come out at the Porta Orientale. Enter the gate, and 
three or four hundred yards further, you will see a little 
square surrounded by elms; there is the convent, and you 
cannot mistake it. God be with you, my brave youth.' 
And, accomipanying the last words with a courteous wave 
of the hand, he continued his way. Renzo stood surprised 
and edified at the affable manners of the citizens towards 
strangers, and knew not that it was an unusual day — a day 
in which the Spanish cloak had to stoop before the doublet. 
He followed the path that had been pointed out, and arrived 
at the Porta Orientale. The reader, however, must not 
allow the scene now associated with this name to present 
itiself to his mind: the wide and straight street flanked with 
poplars, outside; the spacious opening between two piles 
of building, begun, at least, with some pretensions; on first 
entering these two lateral mounds at the base of the bas- 
tions, regularly sloped, levelled at the top, and edged with 
trees ; that garden on one side, and further on, those palaces 
on the right and left of the principal street of the suburb. 
When Renzo entered by that gate, the street outside ran 
straight along the whole length of the Lazaretto, it being 
impossible for it, for that distance, to do otherwise; then 
it continued crooked and narrow between the two hedges. 
The gate consisted of two pillars with a roofing above to 
protect the door-posts, and on one side a small cottage for 
the custom-house officers. The bases of the bastions were 
of irregular steepness, and the pavement was a rough and 
unequal surface of rubbish and fragm.ents of broken vessels 
thrown there by chance. The street of the suburb which 
opened to the view of a person entering the Porta Orien- 
tale, bore no bad resemblance to that now facing the 
entrance of the Porta Tosa. A small ditch ran along the 
middle, till within a few yards of the gate, and thus divided 
it into two winding narrow streets, covered with dust or 
mud, according to the season. At the spot where was, and 
now is, the little street called the Borghetto, this ditch 
emptied itself into a sewer, and thence into the other ditch 
that washes the walls. Here stood a column surmounted 
by a cross, called the Column of San Dionigi: on the right 



200 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and left were gardens enclosed by hedges, and at intervals 
a few small cottages, inhabited chiefly hj washerwomen. 
Renzo entered the gate, and pursued his way; none of the 
custom-house officers spoke to him, which appeared to him 
the more wonderful, since the few in this country who could 
boast of having been at Milan, had related marvellous 
stories of the examinations and interrogations to which all 
those who entered were subjected. The street was deserted; 
so much so, that had he not heard a distant buzz indicating 
some great movement, he would have fancied he was enter- 
ing a forsaken town. Advancing forward, without knowing 
what to make of this, he saw on the pavement certain 
white streaks, as white as snow; but snow it could not be, 
mce it does not fall in streaks, nor usually at this season, 
jde advanced to one of these, looked at it, touched it, and 
felt assured that it was flour. — ^A great abundance, thought 
he, there must be in Milan, if they scatter in this manner 
the gifts of God. They gave us to understand that there 
was a great famine everywhere. See how they go about 
to make us poor people quiet. — Going a few steps further, 
and coming up to the column, he saw at its foot a still 
stranger sight; scattered about on the steps of the pedestal 
were things which certainly were not stones, and, had they 
been on a baker's counter, he would not have hesitated a 
moment to call them loaves. But Renzo would not so readily 
trust his eyes ; because, forsooth ! this was not a likely 
place for bread. — Let us see what these things can be, — said 
he again to himself; and, going to the column, he stooped 
down, and took one in his hand : it was really a round, very 
white loaf, and such as Renzo was unaccustomed to eat, 
except on holy days. — It is really bread! said he aloud, so 
great was his astonishment: — is this the way they scatter it 
in this country? in such a year too? and don't they even 
give themselves the trouble to pick up what falls? this must 
be the land of the Cuccagna !^ After ten miles' walk in the 
fresh morning air, this bread, when he had recovered his 
self-possession, aroused his appetite. — Shall I take it? de- 
liberated he : poh ! they have left it here to the discretion 
of dogs, and surely a Christian may taste it. And, after: 
3. The name of an ideal country, affording all sorts of pleasure. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 201 

all, if ttie owner comes forward, I will pay him. — Tlitis 
reasoning, he put the loaf he held in his hand into one 
pocket, took up a second and put it into the other, and a 
third, which he began to eat, and then proceeded on his 
way, more uncertain than ever, and longing to have this 
strange mystery cleared up. Scarcely had he started, when 
he saw people issuing from the interior of the city, and he 
stood still to watch those who first appeared. They were a 
man, a woman, and, a little way behind, a boy; all three 
carrying a load on their backs which seemed beyond their 
strength, and all three in a most extraordinary condition. 
Their dress, or rather their rags, covered with flour, their 
faces floured, and^ at the same time, distorted and much 
heated; they walked not only as if wearied by their load, 
but trembling as if their limbs had been beaten and bruised. 
The man staggered under the weight of a large sack of 
flour, which, here and there in holes, scattered a shower 
around at very stumble, at every disturbance hi his equili- 
brium. But the figure of the woman was still more awk- 
ward: an tmwieldy bulk, two extended arms which seemed 
to bear it up with difficulty, and looked like two carved 
handles from the neck to the widest part of a large kilder- 
kin^ and beneath this enormous body, two legs, naked up; 
to the knees, which could scarcely totter along. Renzo 
gazed steadily at this great bulk, and discovered that it 
was the woman*s gown turned up around her, with as much 
flour in it as it could hold, and rather more, so that from 
time to time it was scattered in handfuls over the ground. 
The boy held with both hands a basket full of bread upon 
his head; but, from having shorter legs than his parents, 
he kept falling behind by degrees, and in running forward 
to overtake them, the basket lost its balance, and a few 
loaves fell. 

*If you let another fall, you vile, helpless . . .* said the 
mother, gnashing her teeth at the child. 

* I don't let them fall ; they fall themselves. How can I] 
help it?' replied he. 

*Eh! it's well for you that I have my hands engaged,^' 
rejoined the woman, shaking her fist, as if she would have 
given the poor child a blowj and witii this movement she 



202 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

sent forth a fresh cloud of flour, enough to have made 
more than the two loaves the boy had let fall. 

' Come, come,' said the man, * we will go back presently 
to pick them up, or somebody will do it for us : we have been 
a long while in want: now that we have got a little abun- 
dance, let us enjoy it in blessed peace.' 

In the mean time people arrived from without; and one 
of them, accosting the woman, ' Where must we go to get 
bread ? ' asked he. * Forward, forward,' was her reply ; 
and when they were a few yards past, she added, mutter- 
ing, * These blackguard peasants will come and sweep all 
the bake-houses and magazines, and there will be nothing 
left for us.' 

' There's a little for everybody, m.agpie,' said the hus-^ 
band ; ' plenty, plenty.' 

From this and similar scenes which Renzo heard and 
witnessed, he began to gather that he had come to a city in 
a state of insurrection, and that this was a day of vic- 
tory; that is to say, when every one helped himself in 
proportion to his inclination and power, giving blows in 
payment. However we may desire to make our poor moun- 
taineer appear to the best advantage, yet historical accuracy 
obliges us to say, that his first feeling was that of satisfac- 
tion. He had so little to rejoice at in the ordinary course 
of things, that he was inclined to approve of anything that 
might make a change, whatever it might be. And besides, 
not being a man superior to his age, he entertained the 
com.mon opinion, or prejudice, that the scarcity of bread 
was produced by m.onopolists and bakers; and readily did 
he esteem every method justifiable of rescuing from their 
grasp the food, which they, according to this opinion, so 
cruelly denied to the hunger of a whole people. He re- 
solved, hovv^ever, to get out of the tum_ult, and rejoiced at 
being directed to a Capuchin, who would give him shelter 
and good advice. Engaged in such thoughts, and looking 
about him at the fresh victors who appeared, laden with 
spoil, he took the short road that still remained to reach 
the convent. 

On the present site of a noble palace, with its beautiful 
portico, there was formerly, and till within a very few 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 203 

years, a small square, and at the furthest side of this, the 
church and convent of the Capuchins, with four large 
elms standing before them. We congratulate, not without 
envy, those of our readers who have not seen Milan as 
thus described: that is, because they must be very young, 
and have not had much time to commit many follies. Renzo 
went straight to the door, put into his bosom the remain- 
ing half loaf, took out his letter and held it ready in his 
hand, and rang the bell. A small wicket v/as opened at the 
summions, and the face of the porter appeared at the grate 
to ask who was there. 

* One from the country, bringing an important letter to 
•Father Bonaventura from Father Cristoforo.' 

* Give it me,' said the porter, putting his hand through 
the grate. 

' No, no,' said Renzo, ' I m.ust give it into his own 
hands.' 

* He is not in the Convent.' 

'Let me come in, then, and I will wait for him,' replied 
Renzo. 

'Follow my advice,' rejoined the friar: * go and wait in 
the church, where you may be employing yourself profit- 
ably. You cannot be admitted into the convent at present.' 
So saying, he closed the wicket. 

Renzo stood irresolute, with the letter in his hand. He 
then took a few steps tovv^ards the door of the church, to 
follow the advice of the porter, but thought he would first- 
just give another glance at the stir outside. He crossed 
the square, reached the side of the road, and stood with 
his arms crossed on his breast to v/atch the thickest and 
most noisy part of the crowd that was issuing from the 
interior of the city. The vortex attracted our spectator. — 
Let us go and see thought he; and again taking out the 
piece of bread, he began to eat, and advanced towards the 
crowd. While he was w^alking thither, we will relate, as 
briefly as possible, the causes and beginnings of this uproar. 




CHAPTER XII 

I HIS was the second year of the scarcity. In the pre- 
ceding year, the surplus remaining from former sea- 
sons had more or less supplied the deficiency; and the 
people, neither satiated nor famished, but certainly suffi- 
ciently unprovided ior, had reached the harvest of 1628, in 
which our story finds us. Now, this harvest, so long and 
eagerly looked forward to, proved still less productive than 
the former, partly on account of the adverse character 
of the season (and that not only at Milan, but, in great 
measure, in the surrounding country), and partly by the 
agency of man. Such were the ravages and havoc 
of the war — that amiable war to which we have already 
alluded — that in the parts of the country bordering on its 
scene, much more land than usual remained uncultivated 
and deserted by the peasants, who instead of working to 
provide food for themselves and others, were obliged to 
wander about as beggars. I have said, more than usual, 
because the insupportable taxes, levied with unequalled 
cupidity and folly — the habitual conduct, even in perfect 
peace, of the stationary troops, — conduct which the mourn- 
ful documents of the age compare to that of an in- 
vading enemy — and other reasons, which this is not the place 
to enumerate, had for some time been producing this sad 
effect throughout the whole of the Milanese: the particular 
circumstances, of which we are now speaking, being but the 
sudden exacerbation of a chronic disease. No sooner had 
this deficient harvest been gathered in, than the provisions 
for the army, and the waste which always accompanies them, 
made such a fearful void in it, that scarcity quickly made 
itself felt, and with scarcity its melancholy, but profitable, 
as well as inevitable, effect, a rise of prices. 

But when the price of food reaches a certain point, there 
always arises (at least, hitherto it has always arisen; and 
if it is so still, after all that has been written by so many 
learned men, what must it have been in those days !) — there 

204 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 205 

always arises an opinion among the many that it is not the 
effect of scarcity. They forget that they had foreseen and 
predicted such an issue; they suddenly fancy that there is 
plenty of corn, and that the evil proceeds from there not 
being as much distributed as is required for consumption; 
propositions sufficiently preposterous, but which flatter both 
their anger and their hopes. Corn monopolists, either real 
or imaginary, large landholders, the bakers who purchased 
corn, all, in short, who had either little or much, or were 
thought to have any, were charged with being the causes 
of the scarcity and dearness of provisions; they were the 
objects of universal complaint, and of the hatred of the mul- 
titude of every rank. The populace could tell with certainty 
where there were magazines and granaries full and over- 
flowing with corn, and even requiring to be propped up; 
they indicated most extravagant numbers of sacks; they 
talked with certainty of the immense quantities of grain 
secretly despatched to other places, where, probably, it was 
asserted with equal assurance and equal excitement, that the 
corn grown there was transported to Milan. They implored 
from the magistrates those precautions which always appear, 
or at least, have always hitherto appeared, so equitable, so 
simple, so capable of drawing forth the corn which they 
affirm to be secreted, walled up, or buried, and of restoring 
to them abundance. The magistrates, therefore, busied them- 
selves in fixing the highest price that was to be charged 
upon every commodity; in threatening punishment to any 
one who should refuse to sell ; and making other regulations 
of a similar nature. As, however, all human precautions, 
fiow vigorous soever, can neither diminish the necessity of 
food, nor produce crops out of season: and as these in- 
dividual precautions offered no very inviting terms to other 
countries where there might be a superabundance, the evil 
continued and increased. The multitude attributed such an 
effect to the scarcity and feebleness of the remedies, and 
loudly solicited some more spirited and decisive measures. 
Unfortunately, they found a man after their own heart. 

In the absence of the governor, Don Gonzalo Fernandez 
de Cordova, who was encamped over Casale del Monferrato, 
the High Chancellor Antonio Ferrer, also a Spaniard, suj)- 



206 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

plied his place at Milan. This man saw (and who could help» 
seeing it?) that a moderate price on bread is in itself a 
most desirable thing; and he thought (here was his mistake) 
that an order from him^ would suffice to produce it. He fixed 
the limit (la meta, by which name the tariff was distinguished 
in articles of food,) at the price that bread would have had, 
if the corn had been generally sold at thirty-three livres 
the bushel, and they sold it as high as eighty. He acted 
like the old woman who thought to make herself young again 
by changing her baptismal faith. 

Regulations less irrational and less unjust had, on more 
than one occasion, by the resistance of actual circumstances, 
remained unexecuted; but that this should be carried into 
effect was undertaken by the multitude, who, seeing their 
demands at last converted into a law, would not suffer it 
to be a mere form. They immediately ran to the bake- 
houses, to demand bread at the fixed price; and they re^ 
quired it with that air of threatening resolution which pas- 
sion, force, and law united could im.part. It need not be 
asked if the bakers resisted. With sleeves turned up, they 
were busied in carrying, putting into the oven, and taking 
out thence, without intermission; for the people, having a 
confused idea that it y/as too violent an attempt to last 
long, besieged the bake-houses incessantly, to enjoy their 
temporary good fortune ; and every reader can imagine what 
a pleasure it must have been to drudge like a slave, and 
expose one's self miore than usually to an attack of pleurisy, 
to be, after all, a loser in consequence. But with magistrates 
on one side threatening punishments, and the people on 
the other im-portunate, murmuring at every delay that was 
interposed in serving them, and indefinitely menacing some 
one or other of their chastisements, which are always the 
worst that are inflicted in this world — there was no help 
for it; drudge they must; they were forced to empty and 
replenish their ovens, and sell. However, to keep them up 
to such employment, it was of little avail to impose strict 
orders, and keep them in constant fear: it was a question 
of absolute practicability; and had the thing lasted a little 
longer, they could have done no more. They remonstrated 
incessantly against the iniquitous and insupportable weight 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 207 

of the burden laid upon them, and protested they v/ould 
willingly throw the shovel into the oven, and take their 
departure ; and yet they continued to persevere as they could, 
longing, hoping, that some day or other, the High Chan- 
cellor would come to his senses. But Antonio Ferrer, who 
was what would nov/ be called a m.an of character, replied 
that the bakers had made enormous profits in past times; 
that they v/ould equallj'' make great gains in better times to 
come, that, therefore, it was both reasonable and necessary 
they should make some compensation to the public, and that, 
in the mean while, they must get on as they could. Whether 
he were really convinced of the truth of those reasons he 
alleged to others, or whether, perceiving, from, its effects, 
the impossibility of maintaining this regulation, he was 
willing to leave to others the odium of revoking it; for who 
can now look into Antonio Ferrer's mind? yet certain it is 
he did not relax one iota of what he had established. At 
length, the decurioni (a municipal magistracy composed of 
nobles, which lasted till the ninety-sixth year of the last 
century) informed the Governor, by letter, of the state in 
which matters stood, hoping he might be able to suggest 
som_e remicdy. 

Don Gonzalo, buried over head in the affairs of war, did 
what the reader will certainly imagine: he nominated a 
Council, which he endowed v/ith full authority to fix such 
a price upon bread as could becomie current, thus doing 
justice to both parties. The deputies assembled, or it was 
expressed, after the Spanish fashion, in the jargon of those 
days, the junta met; and, after a hundred bowings, com- 
pliments, preambles, sighs, whisperings, airy propositions, 
and subterfuges, urged, by a necessity which all felt, to 
come to some determination, conscious that they were cast- 
ing an important die, but av/are that there was no other 
course to be taken, they at length agreed to augment the 
price of bread. The bakers once more breathed, but the 
people raved. 

The evening preceding the day in which Renzo arrived at 
Milan, the streets and squares swarmed with men, who, 
transported with indignation, and swayed by a prevailing 
opinion^ assembled — ^whether acquaintances or strangers—* 



208 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in knots and parties without any previous concert, and al- 
most without being aware of it, like rain-drops on a hill- 
side. Every conversation increased the general belief, and 
roused the passions of both hearer and speaker. Amongst 
the many excited ones, there were some few of cooler tem- 
perament, who stood quietly watching with great satisfac- 
tion the troubling of the water, who busied themselves in 
troubling it more and more, with such reasonings and stories 
as rogues know how to invent, and agitated minds are so 
ready to believe, and who determined not to let it calm 
dovt^n without first catching a little fish. Thousands went 
to rest that night with an indeterminate feeling that some- 
thing must and would be done. Crowds assembled before 
day-break: children, women, men, old people, workmen, 
beggars, all grouped together at random; here was a con- 
fused whispering of many voices; there, one declaimed to 
a crowd of applauding bystanders; this one asked his near- 
est fellow the same question that had just been put to him- 
self; that other repeated the exclamation that he heard 
resounding in his ears; everywhere were disputes, threats, 
wonderings; and very few words made up the materials 
of so many conversations. 

There only wanted som.ething to lay hold of: some be- 
ginning, some kind of impetus to reduce words to deeds, 
and this was not long wanting. Towards daybreak, little boys 
issued from the bakers' shops, carrying baskets of bread to 
the houses of their usual customers. The first appearance 
of one of these unlucky boys in a crowd of people, was like 
the fall of a lighted squib in a gunpowder magazine. 'Let us 
see if there's bread here ! ' exclaimed a hundred voices, in 
an instant. 'Ay, for the tyrants who roll in abundance, 
and would let us die of hunger,' said one, approaching the 
boy; and, raising his hand to the edge of the basket, he 
snatched at it, and exclaimed, * Let me see ! ' The boy col- 
oured, turned pale, trembled, and tried to say, 'Let me go 
on ; ' but the words died between his lips, and slackening 
his arms, he endeavoured to disengage them hastily from 
the straps. 

' Down with the basket ! ' was the instantaneous cry. 
Many hands seized it, and brought it to the ground; they 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 209 

then threw the cloth that covered it into the air. A tepid 
fragrance was diffused around. * We, too, are Christians; 
we must have bread to eat,' said the first. He took out a 
loaf, and, raising it in the view of the crowd, began to eat: 
in an instant all hands were in the basket, and in less time 
than one can relate it, all had disappeared. Those who 
had got none of the spoil, irritated at the sight of what the 
others had gained, and animated by the facility of the enter- 
prise, moved off by parties in quest of other straying baskets, 
which were no sooner met with than they were pillaged 
immediately. Nor was it necessary to attack the bearers: 
those who unfortunately were on their way, as soon as they 
saw which way the wind blew, voluntarily laid down their 
burdens, and took to their heels. Nevertheless, those who 
remained without a supply were, beyond comparison, the 
greater part; nor were the victors half satisfied with such 
insignificant spoil; and some there were mingled in the 
crowds who had resolved upon a much better regulated at- 
tack. * To the bake-house, to the bake-house ! * was the cry. 

In the street called La Corsia de' Servi was a bake-house, 
which is still there, bearing the same name, — a name that, 
in Tuscan, means * The Bakery of the Crutches,' and, in 
Milanese, is composed of words so extravagant, so whim- 
sical, so out-of-the-way, that the alphabet of the Italian 
language does not afford letters to express its sound.^ In 
this direction the crowd advanced. The people of the shop 
were busy questioning the poor boy who had returned un- 
laden, and he, pale with terror, and greatly discomposed, 
was unintelligibly relating his unfortunate adventure, when, 
suddenly, they heard a noise as of a crowd in motion; it 
increases and approaches; the forerunners of the crowd are 
in sight. 

* Shut, lock up ; quick, quick : * one runs to beg assistance 
from the sheriff; the others hastily shut up the shop, and 
bolt and bar the doors inside. The multitudes begin to in- 
crease without, and the cries redouble of — * Bread! bread! 
Open ! open ! ' 

At this juncture the sheriff arrived, in the midst of a 
troop of halberdiers. * Make room, make room, my boys ; 

^ EI prestin di scanse. 



210 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

go home, go home : make room for the sheriff ! ' cried he. 
The throng, not too much crowded, gave way a Httle, so 
that the halberdiers could advance and get close to the door 
of the shop, though not in a very orderly manner. * But, 
my friends," said the sheriff, addressing the people from 
thence, ' what are you doing here ? Go home, go home. 
Where is your fear of God? What will our master the 
King say? We don't wish to do you any harm, but go 
home, like good fellows. What in the world can you do 
here, in such a crush? There is nothing good to be got 
here, either for the soul or body. Go home, go home ! ^ 
But how were those next the speaker, who saw his face 
and could hear his words, even had they been willing to 
obey— how were they to accomplish it, urged forward as 
they were, and almost trampled upon by those behind; 
who, in their turn, were trodden upon by others, like wave 
upon wave, and step upon step, to the very edge of the 
rapidly increasing throng? The sheriff began to feel a little 
alarmed. ' Make them give way, that I may get a little 
breath,' said he to his halberdiers ; * but don't hurt any- 
body. Let us try to get into the shop. Knock; make them 
give way ! ' 

' Back ! back ! ' cried the halberdiers, throwing themselves 
in a body upon their nearest neighbours, and pushing them 
back with the point of their v/eapons. The people replied 
with a grumbling shout, and retreated as they could, dis- 
persing blows on the breast and stomach in profusion, and 
treading upon the toes of those behind; while such was the 
general rush, the squeezing and trampling, that those who 
were in the middle of the throng would have given any- 
thing to have been elsewhere. In the mean while, a small 
space was cleared before the house; the sheriff knocked 
and kicked against the door, calling to those within to open 
it: these, seeing from the window how things stood, ran 
dov/n in haste and admitted the sheriff, followed by the 
halberdiers, who crept in one after another, the last repuls- 
ing the crowd with their v/eapons. When all were secured, 
they re-bolted the door, and, running up-stairs, the sheriff 
displayed himself at the window. We leave the reader to 
imagine the outcry I 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 211 

* My friends ! ' cried he : many looked up, ' My friends ! 
go home. A general pardon to all who go home at once ! ' 

* Bread ! bread ! Open ! open ! * were the most conspicuous 
words in the savage vociferations the crowd sent forth in reply. 

' J ustice, my friends ! take care ; you have yet time given 
you. Come, get away; return to your houses. You shall 
have bread ; but this is not the way to get it. Eh ! ... eh I 
what are you doing down there ? Eh ! at this door ? Fie, 
fie upon you! I see, I see: justice! take care! It is a great 
crime. Vm coming to you. Eh I eh 1 away with those irons ; 
down with those hands ! Fie ! you Milanese, who are talked 
of all over the world for peaceableness ! Listen I listen ! you 
have always been good sub . . . Ah, you rascals ! ' 

This rapid transition of style was caused by a stone, which, 
coming from the hands of one of these good subjects, struck 
the forehead of the sheriff, on the left protuberance of his 
metaphysical profundities. ' Rascals ! rascals ! ' continued 
he, shutting the window in a rage, and retiring from view. 
But though he had shouted to the extent of the powers of his 
throat, his words, both good and bad, had vanished and con-- 
sumed in thin air, repulsed by the cries which came from 
below. The objects that now, as he afterwards described, 
presented themselves to his view, were stones and iron bars, 
(the first they could lay hold of by the way,) with which 
they tried to force open the doors and windows; and they 
already had made considerable progress in their work. 

In the mean time, the masters and shop-boys appeared at 
the upper windows, armed with stones, (they had probably 
unpaved the yard,) and crying out to those belov/, with hor- 
rible looks and gestures, to let them alone, they showed their 
weapons, and threatened to let fly among them. Seeing that 
nothing else would avail, they began to throw at them in 
reality. Not one fell in vain, since the press was such that 
even a grain of corn, as the saying was, could not have 
reached the ground. 

' Ah ! you great vagabonds ! you great villains ! Is this the 
bread you give to poor people ? Ah ! alas ! oh ! Now, now, at 
us? ' was raised from below. More than one was injured, and 
two boys were killed. Fury increased the strength of the peo- 
ple ; the doors and bars gave way ; and the crowd poured into 



212 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the passages in torrents. Those within, perceiving their dan« 
ger, took refuge in the garrets: the sheriff, the halberdiers, 
and a few of the houshold gathered together here in a corner, 
under the slates ; and others, escaping by the sky-lights, wan- 
dered about on the roof like cats. 

The sight of the spoil made the victors forget their de- 
signs of sanguinary vengeance. They flew upon the large 
chests, and instantly pillaged them. Others, instead, hastened 
to tear open the counter, seized the tills, took out by handfuls, 
pocketed and set off with, the money, to return for bread 
afterwards, if there remained any. The crowd dispersed 
themselves through the interior magazines. Some laid hold 
of the sacks and drew them out; others turned them wrong 
side upwards, and untying the mouth, to reduce them to a 
weight which they could manage to carry, shook out some of 
the flour ; others crying out, ' Stay, stay ! * came underneath 
to prevent this waste, by catching it in their clothes and 
aprons; others, again, fell upon a kneading-trough, and 
seized the dough, which ran over their hands and escaped 
their grasp on every side: here, one who had snatched up a 
meal-sieve, came brandishing it in the air. Some come, some 
go, some handle: men, women, children, swarm around; 
pushes, blows, and cries are bandied about; and a white 
powder that rises in clouds and deposits itself in every direc- 
tion, involves the whole proceeding in a thick mist. Outside, 
is a crowd composed of two reverse processions, which alter- 
nately separate and intermingle, some going out with their 
prey, others entering to share the spoil. 

While this bake-house was being thus plundered, none of 
the others were quiet and free from danger ; but at none had 
the people assembled in such numbers as to be very daring. 
In some, the masters had collected a few auxiliaries, and 
stood upon their defence : others, less strong in numbers, or 
more terrified, came to some kind of agreement; they dis- 
tributed bread to those who had begun to crowd around their 
shops, if they would be content with this and go away. Those 
who did withdraw, did so not so much because they were con- 
tented with their acquisitions, as because the halberdiers and 
police, keeping at a distance from the tremendous scene at 
the Bake-house of the Crutches, appeared, nevertheless, else- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 213 

where In sufficient force to keep in awe these smaller parties 
of mutineers. By this means, the confusion and concourse con- 
tinued to augment at this first unfortunate bake-house ; for all 
those whose fingers itched to be at work, and whose hearts 
were set upon doing some great deed, repaired thither, where 
their friends were in greatest numbers, and impunity was 
secure. 

Such was the state of things, w^hen Renzo, finishing, as we 
have related, his piece of bread, came to the suburb of the 
Porta Orientale, and set off, without being aware of it, ex- 
actly to the central scene of the tumult. He continued his 
way, now urged forward, now hindered, by the crowd ; and as 
he walked, he watched and listened, to gather from the con- 
fused murmurs of voices some more positive information of 
the state of things. The following are nearly the words he 
caught on his way. 

' Now,' said one, ' the infamous imposture of these villains 
is discovered, who said there was no more bread, nor flour, 
nor corn. Now we see things clearly and distinctly, and they 
can no longer deceive us as they have done. Hurrah for 
plenty ! ' 

* I tell you all this just goes for nothing,' said another; ' it is 
only like making a hole in water ; so that it will be the worse 
for us, if we don't get full justice done us. Bread will be 
sold at a low price: but they will put poison in it to kill us 
poor people like flies. They've said already that we are too 
many : they said so in the council ; and I know it for certain, 
because I heard it with these ears from an acquaintance of 
mine, who is the friend of a relation of a scullion of one of 
these lords.' 

* They are not things to be laughed at,' said another poor 
wretch, who was foaming at the mouth, and holding up to 
his bleeding head a ragged pocket-handkerchief ; som.e neigh- 
bour, by way of consolation, echoing his remark. 

* Make way, gentlemen : pray be good enough to make way 
for a poor father of a family, who is carrying something to 
eat to five famished children.' These were the words of one 
who came staggering under the weight of a large sack o£ 
flour; and everybody instantly drew back to attend to his 
regutst/ 



214 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

' I,' said another, almost in an imder-tone, to his companion, 
'I shall take my departure. I am a man of the world, and I 
know how these things go. These clowns who now make so 
much noise, to-morrow or next day will be shut up in their 
houses, cov/ering with fear. I have already noticed some 
faces, some worthy fellows, who are going about as spies, 
and taking note of those who are here and not here ; and when 
all is over they will render in an account, and bring punish- 
ment on those who deserve it.' 

' He who protects the bakers/ cried a sonorous voice, 
which attracted Renzo's attention, *is the superintendent of 
provisions.* 

* They are all rascals,' said a by-stander. 

* Yes; but he is at the head of them,' replied the first. 

The superintendent of provisions, elected eyevj year by the 
governor, from a list of six nobles, formed by the council of 
decurioni, was the president of this council, as well as of the 
court of provisions, which, composed of twelve noblemen, 
had, together with other duties, that of overlooking the dis- 
tribution of corn in the city. 

The person who occupied this post must, necessarily, in . 
times of scarcity and ignorance, have been regarded as 
the author of the evil, unless he had acted like Ferrer — 
a course which was not in his power, even had the idea 
entered his mind. 

* Rascals ! ' exclaimed another : ' could they do worse ? 
They have actually dared to say that the high chancellor is 
an old fool, to rob him of his credit, and %di the government 
into their own hands. We ought to make a large hen-coop, 
and put them in, to live upon vetches and cockle-weed, as 
they would treat us.' 

* Bread, eh ! ' said one who was making as great haste as 
he could. * Bread? Blows with stones of a pound weight — 
stones falling plump, that came down like hail. And such 
breaking of ribs ! I long to be at my own house.' 

Among such sentences as these, by which it is difficult to 
say whether he were more informed or perplexed, and among 
numberless knocks and pushers, Renzo at last arrived opposite 
the bake-house. The crowds here had considerably dispersed, 
so that he could contemplate the dismal scene of recent con- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 215 

fusian— the walls unplastered and defaced with stones and 
bricks, the windows broken, and the door destroyed. 

* These are no very fine doings,' thought Renzo to himself: 
* if they treat all the bake-houses in this way, where will they; 
make bread ? In the ditches ? ' 

From time to time somebody would issue from the house, 
carrying part of a bin, of a tub, or of a bolting hutch, the 
pole of a kneading instrument, a bench, a basket, a journal, 
a waste-book, or something belonging to this unfortunate 
bake-house ; and shouting * Make room, make room,' would 
pass on through the crowd. All these, he observed, went in 
the sam.e direction, and to some fixed place. Renzo, deter^ 
mined to find out the meaning of this procedure, followed 
behind a man who, having tied together a bundle of broken 
planks and chips, carried it off on his back, and, like the 
others, took the road that runs along the northern side of the 
cathedral, and receives its name from the flight of steps 
which was then in existence, and has only lately been re- 
moved. The wish of observing what happened, did not pre- 
vent our mountaineer, on arriving in sight of this noble pile, 
from stopping to gaze upwards, with open mouth. He then 
quickened his pace to overtake his self-chosen guide ; and, on 
turning the corner, gave another glance at the front of the 
building, at that time in a rude and far-from-finished state, 
keeping all the while close behind his leader, who advanced 
towards the middle of the square. The crowds became more 
dense as he went forward, but they made way for the car- 
rier; and while he cleft the waves of people, Renzo, follow- 
ing in his wake, arrived with him in the very centre of the 
throng. Here was a space, and in the midst a bonfire, a heap 
of embers, the relics of the implements before mentioned. 
Around, the people were dancing and clapping their hands, 
mingling in the uproar a thousand shouts of triumph and im- 
precation. 

The man with the bundle upset it into the embers ; others, 
with a long half-burnt pole, gathered them up and raked them 
together from the sides and underneath : the smoke increased 
and thickened, the flame again burst forth, and with it, the 
redoubled cries of the by-standers : * Hurrah for plenty ! 
Death to those who would starve us ! Away with the famine i 



216 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Perish the Court of Provision! Perish the junta! Hurrah 
for plenty ! Hurrah for bread ! ' 

To say the truth, the destruction of sieves and kneading- 
troughs, the pillaging of bake-houses, and the routing of 
bakers, are not the most expeditious means of providing a 
supply of bread; but this is one of those metaphysical sub- 
tleties which never enter the mind of the multitude. Renzo, 
without being of too metaphysical a turn, yet not being in 
such a state of excitement as the others, could not avoid 
making this reflection in his mind; he kept it, however, 
to himself, for this, among other reasons: because, out of 
so many faces, there was not one that seemed to say, * My 
friend, if I am wrong, correct me, and I shall be indebted 
to you/ 

The flame had again sunk; no one was seen approaching 
with fresh combustibles, and the crowd was beginning to feel 
impatient, when a rumour was spread that at the Cordusio (a 
small square or cross-way not far distant) they had laid siege 
to a bake-house. In similar circumstances, the announce- 
ment of an event very often produces it. Together with this 
rumour, a general wish to repair thither gained ground 
among the multitude : ' I am going ; are you going ? Let us 
go, let us go ! ' were heard in every direction ; the ciowd broke 
up, were set in motion, and mSved on. Renzo remained be- 
hind, almost stationary, except when dragged forward by the 
torrent; and in the mean while held counsel with himself, 
whether he should make his escape from the stir, and return 
to the convent in search of Father Bonaventura, or go and 
see this affray too. Curiosity prevailed. He resolved, how- 
ever, not to mingle in the thickest of the crowd, at the risk 
of broken bones, or something worse; but to keep at a dis- 
tance and watch. Having determined on his plans, and find- 
ing himself tolerably unobserved, he took out the second roll, 
and, biting off a mouthful, moved forward in the rear of the 
tumultuous body. 

By the outlet at one corner of the square, the multitude 

had already entered the short and narrow street Pescheria 

vecchia^ and thence, through the crooked archway, into the 

^Pia^^a de' Mercanti^ Very few were there who, in passing 

8 The Old Fish Market. SThe Square of the Merchants. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 217 

the niche which divides, about the centre, the terrace of the 
edifice then called the College of Doctors, did not cast a 
slight glance upwards at the great statue that adorns it — at 
that serious, surly, frowning, morose countenance of Don 
Filippo II., which, even in marble, enforces a feeling of re- 
spect, and seems ready to say, ' I am here, you rabble ! ' 

This niche is now empty, by a singular accident. About 
a hundred and seventy years after the events we are now 
relating, one morning, the head of the statue that stood there 
was exchanged, the sceptre was taken out of his hand, and a 
dagger placed there instead, and on his statue was inscribed 
the name of Marcus Brutus. Thus adorned, it remained, per- 
haps, a couple of years; but, one morning, some persons who 
had no sympathies with Marcus Brutus, and who must even 
have borne him a secret grudge, threw a rope around the 
statue, tore it down, and bestowed upon it a hundred in- 
juries; thus mangled, and reduced to a shapeless trunk, they 
dragged it along, with a profuse accompaniment of epithets, 
through the streets, and when they were well tired, threw it 
■ — no one knows where. Who would have foretold this to 
Andrea Biffi, when he sculptured it ? 

From the square of the Mercanti the clamorous multitude 
turned into the by-street de' Fustagnai, whence they poured 
into the Cordusio. Every one, immediately on entering the 
square, turned their eyes towards the bake-house that had 
been indicated to them. But, instead of the crowd of friends 
whom they expected to find already at work, they saw only a 
few, irresolutely hovering about at some distance from the 
shop, which was fastened up, and protected by armed men 
at the windows, who gave tokens of a determination to de- 
fend themselves in case of need. They, therefore, turned 
back and paused, to inform those who were coming up, and 
see what course the others would wish to take; some re- 
turned, or remained behind. There was a general retreat and 
detention, asking and answering of questions, a kind of stag- 
nation, sighs of irresolution, then a general murmur of con- 
sultation. At this moment an ill-omened voice was heard in 
the midst of the crowd : ' The house of the superintendent of 
provisions is close by; let us go and get justice, and lay 
siege to it.' It seemed rather the common recollection of an 



218 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

agreement already concluded, than the acceptance of a pro- 
posal. ' To the superintendent's ! to the superintendent's ! * 
was the o^ily cry that could be heard. The crov/d moved for- 
ward with unanimous fury towards the street where the 
house, named at such an ill-fated moment, was situated. 




CHAPTER XIII 

I HE unfortunate superintendent was at this moment 
digesting a poor and scanty dinner, unwillingly- 
eaten with a little stale bread, and awaiting, with 
much suspense, the term.ination of this storm, far from 
suspecting that it was about to fall with such violence upon 
his own head. Some benevolent person preceded the crowd 
in urging haste, and entered the house to warn him of his 
pressing danger. The servants, already attracted to the 
door by the noise, were looking with much alarm up the 
street, in the direction of the approaching tumult. While 
listening to the warning, the vanguard came in sight; they 
ran in haste and terror to inform their master, and while 
he w^as deliberating whether he should fly, and how he 
should accom.plish it, some one else arrived to tell him there 
was no longer time for flight. Scarcely was there time for 
the servants to secure the door. They, however, barred 
and locked it, and then ran to fasten the windows, as when 
a violent storm is threatening, and the hail is expected to 
come down every moment. The increasing howls of the 
people, falling like a thunder-clap, resounded through the 
em.pty yard; every corner of the house re-echoed it: and 
in the midst of the tremendous and mingled uproar, were 
heard, loudly and repeatedly, the blows of stones upon the 
door. 

* The superintendent ! The tyrant ! The fellow who 
would starve us ! We'll have him, dead or alive ! ' 

The poor man wandered from room to room, pale and 
almost breathless with terror, striking his hands together, 
commending himself to God, and imploring his servants to 
stand firm, and find him some way of making his escape. 
But how, and where ? He ascended to the garret, and there, 
through an aperture between the ceiling and the tiles, 
looked anxiously into the street, and saw it swarming with 
the enraged populace; more terrified than ever, he then 
withdrew to seek the most secure and secret hiding-place he 

219 



220 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

could find. Here he crouched down and listened whether 
the awful burst of fury would ever subside, and the tumult 
ever abate; but hearing that the uproar rather became 
more savage and outrageous, and the blows against the 
door more rapidly repeated, his heart sank within him, 
and he hastily stopped his ears. Then, as if beside himself, 
gnashing his teeth and distorting his countenance, he im- 
petuously extended his arms, and shook his fists, as if he 
would keep the door secure in spite of all the pushes and 
blows. At last, in absolute despair, he sank down upon 
the floor, and remained terrified and almost insensible, 
expecting his death. 

Renzo found himself this time in the thickest of the 
confusion, not now carried there by the throng, but by 
his own deliberate will. At the first proposal of blood- 
shedding, he felt his own curdle within him; as to the 
plundering, he had not exactly determined whether, in this 
instance, it were right or wrong; but the idea of murder 
aroused in him immediate and unfeigned horror. And al- 
though, hy that fatal submission of excited m^inds to the ex- 
cited affirmations of the many, he felt as fully persuaded 
that the superintendent was an oppressive villain, as if he 
had known, with certainty and minuteness, all that the un- 
happy man had done, omitted, and thought; yet he had ad- 
vanced among the foremost, with a determined intention of 
doing his best to save him. With this resolution, he had ar- 
rived close to the door which was assailed in a hundred ways. 
Some, with flints, were hammering at the nails of the lock 
to break it open; others, with stakes, chisels, and hammers, 
set to work with more method and regularity. Others, 
again, with sharp stones, blunted knives, broken pieces of 
iron, nails, and even their finger-nails, if they had nothing 
else, pulled down the plaster and defaced the walls, and 
laboured hard to loosen the bricks by degrees, so as to make 
a breach. Those who could not lend a hand, encouraged 
the others by their cries; but, at the same time, by th^ 
pressure of their persons they contributed to impede the 
work already considerably obstructed by the disorderly con- 
tentions of the workers: for, by the favour of Heaven, it 
sometimes happens in evil undertakings, as too often in 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 221 

good, that the most ardent abettors of a work become its 

greatest impediments. 

The first magistrates who had notice of the insurrection 
immediately sent off to the commander of the castle, which 
then bore the name of Porta Giovia, for the assistance of 
some troops; and he quickly despatched a band of men. 
But what with the information, and the orders, and the 
assembling, and getting on their way, and their march, the 
troops did not arrive till the house was completely sur- 
rounded by an immense army of besiegers and they, there- 
fore, halted at a sufficient distance from it, at the extremity 
of the crowd. The officer who commanded them knew not 
what course to pursue. Here was nothing but an assembly 
of idle and unarmed people^ of every age and both sexes. 
On orders being given to disperse and make way, they 
replied by a deep and prolonged murmur ; but no one moved. 
To fire down upon the crowd seemed to the officer not only 
a cruel, but a dangerous, course, which, while it offended 
the less formidable, would irritate the more violent : besides, 
he had received no such instructions. To push through this 
first assembly, overthrow them right and left, and go for- 
ward to carry war where it was given, would have been the 
best ; but how to succeed was the point. Who knew whether 
the soldiers would be able to proceed, united and in order? 
For if, instead of breaking through the crowd, they should 
be routed on entering, they would be left to the mercy of 
the people, after having exasperated them. The irresolu- 
tion of the commander, and the inactivity of the soldiers, 
appeared, whether justlj or not, to proceed from fear. 
Those who stood next to them contented themselves with 
looking them in the face vjith an air, as the Milanese say, 
of I-don't-care-f or-you ; those who stood a little farther off, 
could not refrain from provoking them, by making faces 
at them, and by cries of mockery; farther on, few knew or 
cared who was there; the spoilers continued to batter the 
v/all, without any other thought than of succeeding quickly 
in their undertaking; the spectators ceased not to animate 
them with shouts. 

Amongst these appeared one, who was himself a spectacle, 
an old and half-starved man, who, rolling about two sunken 



222 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and fiery eyes, composing his wrinkled face to a smile of 
diabolical complacency, and with his hands raised above 
his infamous, hoary head, was brandishing in the air a 
hammer, a rope, and four large nails, with which he said 
he meant to nail the vicar to the posts of his own door, alive 
as he was. 

' Fie upon you ! for shame ! ' burst forth from Renzo, 
horrified at such words, and at the sight of so many faces 
betokening approbation of them; at the same time encour- 
aged by seeing others, who, although silent, betrayed in their 
countenances the same horror that he felt. * For shame ! 
Would you take the executioner's business out of his hand? 
Murder a Christian ! How can you expect that God will 
give us food, if we do such wicked things ? He will send us 
thunder-bolts instead of bread ! ' 

*Ah, dog ! traitor to his country ! ' cried one of those who 
could hear, in the uproar, these sacred words, turning to 
Renzo, with a diabolical countenance. * Wait, wait ! He 
is a servant of the superintendent's, dressed like a peasant; 
he is a spy ; give it him ! give it him ! ' A hundred voices 
echoed the cry. 'What is it? where is he? who is he? — A 
servant of the superintendent ! — A spy ! — The superintendent 
disguised as a peasant, and making his escape ! — ^Where is 
he ? where is he ? give it him ! give it him ! ' 

Renzo became dumb, shrank into a mere nothing, and 
endeavoured to make his escape; some of his neighbours 
helped him to conceal himself, and, by louder and different 
cries, attempted to drown these adverse and homicidal shouts. 
But what was of more use to him than anything else, was a 
cry of * Make way, make way ! ' which was heard close at 
hand : ' Make way ! here is help ; make way ; ho, hey ! ' 

What was it? It was a long ladder, that some persons 
were bringing to rear against the house, so as to gain an 
entrance through one of the windows. But by great good 
fortune this means, which would have rendered the thing 
easy, was not, in itself, so easy of execution. The bearers, 
Who at each end, and here and there at intervals, supported 
it, pushed it about and impeded by the crowd, reeled to and 
fro like waves; one, with his head between two steps and 
the sides resting on his shoulders, groaned beneath the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 223 

weight, as under a galling yoke ; another was separated from 
his burden by a violent push ; the abandoned machine bruised 
heads, shoulders, and arms: and the reader must imagine 
the complaints and murmurs of those who thus suffered. 
Others, raising the dead weight with their hands, crept under- 
neath it, and carried it on their backs, crying, ' It is our turn ; 
let us go ! ' The fatal machine advanced by bounds and ex- 
changes — now straightforward, now obliquely. It came, how- 
ever, in time to distract and divert the attention of Renzo's 
persecutors, and he profited by this confusion within confu- 
sion; creeping quietly along at first, and then elbowing his 
way as well as he could, he withdrew from the post where he 
foim.d him.self in such a perilous situation, with the intention 
of making the best of his escape from the tumult, and of 
going, in real earnest, to find or to wait for Father Bona- 
ventura. 

All on a sudden, a movement, begun at one extremity, ex- 
tended itself through the crowd, and a cry was echoed from 
mouth to mouth, in chorus : * Ferrer ! Ferrer ! ' Surprise, ex- 
pressions of favour or contempt, joy and anger, burst forth 
wherever the nam.e v/as heard: some echoed it, some tried 
to drown it; some affirmed, some denied, some blessed, some 
cursed. 

* Is Ferrer here ? — It isn't true, it isn't true ! — Yes, yes ! 
long live Ferrer ; he who gives bread at a low price ! — No, 
no ! — He's here, he's here, in his carriage. — What is this 
fellow going to do? Why does he meddle in it? We don't 
want anybody ! — Ferrer ! long live Ferrer ! the friend of 
poor people ! he's come to take the superintendent to prison. 
— No, no : we will get justice ourselves : back, back ! — Yes, 
yes ! Ferrer ! let Ferrer come ! off with the superintendent 
to prison ! ' 

And everybody, standing on tiptoe, turned towards the 
part where the unexpected new arrival was announced. But 
everybody rising, they saw neither more nor less than 
if they had all remained standing as they were; yet so it 
was : all arose. 

In fact, at the extremity of the crowd, on the opposite 
side to where the soldiers were stationed, Antonio Ferrer, 
the high chancellor, was approaching in his carriage ; feeling 



224 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

conscious, probably, that by his mistakes and obstinacy, he 
was the cause, or, at any rate, the occasion, of this outbreak, 
fie now came to try and allay it, and to avert, at least, the 
most terrible and irreparable effects: he came, in short, to 
employ worthily a popularity unworthily acquired. 

In popular tumults there is always a certain num.ber of 
men, who, either from overheated passions, or from fanatical 
persuasion, or from wicked designs, or from an execrable 
love of destruction, do all they can to push matters to the 
worst ; they propose or second the most inhuman advice, and 
fan the flame whenever it seems to be sinking: nothing is 
ever too much for them, and they wish for nothing so much 
as that the tumult should have neither limits nor end. But, 
by way of counterpoise, there is always a certain num.ber 
of very different men, who, perhaps, with equal ardour and 
equal perseverance, are aiming at a contrary effect : some in- 
fluenced by friendship or partiality for the threatened ob- 
jects; others, without further impulse than that of a pious 
and spontaneous horror of bloodshed and atrocious deeds. 
Heaven blesses such. In each of these two opposite parties, 
even without antecedent concert, conformity of inclination 
creates an instantaneous agreement in operation. Those 
who make up the m.ass, and almost the materials of the 
tumult besides, are a mixed body of men, who, more or less, 
by infinite gradations, hold to one or the other extreme: 
partly incensed, partly knavish, a little inclined to a sort 
of justice, according to their idea of the word, a little de- 
sirous of witnessing some grand act of villainy; prone to 
ferocity or compassion, to adoration or execration, accord- 
ing as opportunities present themselves of indulging to the 
full one or other of these sentiments ; craving every m.oment 
to know, to believe, some gross absurdity or improbability, 
and longing to shout, applaud, or revile in somebody's train. 
' Long live,' and ' Down with,' are the words most readily 
uttered; and he who has succeeded in persuading them that 
such an one does not deserve to be quartered, has need of 
very few words to convince them that he deserves to be 
carried in triumph : actors, spectators, instruments, obstacles, 
whichever way the wind blows ; ready even to be silent, when 
there is no longer any one to give them the word; to desist, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 225 

IwHen instigators fail; to disperse, when many concordant 
and uncontradicted voices have pronounced, ' Let us go;' 
and to return to their own homes, demanding of each other — 
What has happened? Since, however, this body has., hence, 
the greatest power, nay, is, in fact, the power itself; so, 
each of the two active parties uses every endeavour to bring 
it to its own side, to engross its services : they are, as it were, 
two adverse spirits, struggling which shall get possession 
of, and animate, this huge body. It depends upon which 
side can diffuse a cry the most apt to excite the passions, 
and direct their motions in favour of its own schemes; can 
most seasonably find information which will arouse or allaj^, 
their indignation, and excite either their terror or their 
hopes; and can give the word, which, repeated more and 
more vehemently, will at once express, attest, and create 
the vote of the majority in favour of one or the other party. 
All these remarks are intended as an introduction to the 
information that, in the struggle of the two parties who 
were contending for the suffrages of the populace crowded 
around the house of the superintendent, the appearance of 
Antonio Ferrer instantly gave a great advantage to the 
more moderate side, which had evidently been kept in awe, 
and, had the succour been a little longer delayed, would have 
had neither power nor scope for combat. This person was 
acceptable to the multitude on account of the tariff of his 
own appointment, which had been so favourable to pur- 
chasers, and also for his heroic resistance to every argu- 
ment on the contrary side. Minds already thus biased were 
now more than ever captivated by the bold confidence of 
the old man, who, without guards or retinue, ventured thus 
to seek and confront an angry and ungoverned multitude. 
The announcement also that he came to take the superin- 
tendent prisoner produced a wonderful effect: so that the 
fury entertained towards the unfortunate man, which would 
have been rendered more violent, whoever had come to 
oppose it without making any concessions, was now, with 
this promise of satisfaction, and, to use a Milanese ex- 
pression, with this bone in their mouth, a little allayed, and 
made way for other and far different sentiments which 
pervaded the minds of the greater part of the crowd. 

' HO 8— Vol. 21 



226 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

The favourers of peace, having recovered their breath, 
seconded Ferrer in a hundred ways : those who were next to 
him, by exciting and re-exciting the cries of general ap- 
plause by their own, and endeavouring at the same time to 
repulse the people so as to make a clear passage for the 
carriage; the others, by applauding, repeating, and spread- 
ing his words, or what appeared to them the best he could 
utter by silencing the furious and obstinate, and turning 
against them the new passions of the fickle assembly. * Who 
is there that won't say, " Long live Ferrer ? " Don't you 
wish bread to be sold cheap, eh? They are all rascals who 
don't wish for justice like Christians: they want to make 
as much noise as they can, to let the vicar escape. To 
prison with the vicar ! Long live Ferrer ! Make room for 
Ferrer ! ' As those who talked in this strain continued to 
increase, the courage of the opposite party rapidly cooled; 
so that the former proceeded from reprimands so far as to 
lay hands upon the demolishers, to repulse them, and even 
to snatch the weapons from their grasp. These grumbled, 
threatened, and endeavoured to regain their implements; 
but the cause of blood had given way, and the predominating 
cries were — ' Prison ! Justice ! Ferrer ! ' After a little 
struggle, they were driven back: the others possessed them- 
selves of the door, both to defend it from further assaults, 
and to secure access for Ferrer; and some of them, calling 
to those within (apertures for such a purpose v/ere not 
wanting) informed them of the assistance that had arrived, 
and bid them get the superintendent ready, *to go directly 
... to prison, ehem, do you hear ! ' 

' Is this the Ferrer who helps to make out proclamations ? ' 
demanded our friend, Renzo, of a new neighbour, remem- 
bering the Vidif Ferrer that the doctor had pointed out to 
him at the bottom of one of these edicts, and which he had 
resounded so perseveringly in his ears. 

* Yes ; the high chancellor,' was the reply. 

* He is a worthy man, isn't he ? ' 

* More than that ! it is he who fixed bread at a low price ; 
and they wouldn't have it so; and now he is come to take 
the superintendent prisoner, who has not dealt justice to us.' 

It is unnecessary to say that Renzo was instantly for 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 227 

Ferrer. He wished to get a sight of him directly, but this 
was no easy matter; yet, with the help of sundry breastings 
and elbowings, like a true Alpine, he succeeded in forcing a 
passage and reaching the foremost ranks next to the side 
of the carriage. 

The vehicle had proceeded a little way into the crowd, 
and was at this moment at a stand-still, by one of those 
inevitable impediments so frequent in a journey of this 
sort. The aged Ferrer presented himself now at one win- 
dow of the carriage, now at another with a countenence 
full of humility, affability, and benevolence — a countenance 
which he had always reserved, perchance he should ever 
have an interview with Don Filippo IV. ; but he was com- 
pelled to display it also on this occasion. He talked too; 
but the noise and murmur of so many voices, and the Long 
lives which were addressed to him^ allowed only few of his 
words to be heard. He therefore had recourse to gestures, 
now laying his fingers on his lips to receive a kiss, which 
his hands, on quickly extending them, distributed right and 
left, as an acknowledgment of thanks for these public 
demonstrations of kindness; now spreading them and wav- 
ing them slowly outside the windows to beg a little room; 
now politely lowering them to request a moment's silence. 
When he had partly succeeded in obtaining it, the nearest 
to the carriage heard and repeated his words : ' Bread, abun- 
dance: I come to give you justice: a little room, if you 
please.' Then overcome, and, as it were, smothered with 
the buzzing of so many voices, the sight of so many crowded 
faces, and the consciousness of so many eyes fixed upon 
him, he drew back for a moment, puffed out his cheeks, sent 
forth a long-drawn breath, and said to himself, For mi vida, 
que de gente!^ 

*Long live Ferrer! Don't be afraid. You are a worthy 
man. Bread, bread ! ' 

*Yes: bread, bread,' replied Ferrer; 'abundance; I 
promise you,' and he laid his hand on his heart. *A little 
room,' added he, in his loudest voice : * I am coming to take 
him to prison, and give him just punishment:' continuing, 
in an under-tone, 'si est a culpable'^ Then bending forward 
*■ Upon my life, what a crowd I 2 if he be guilty, 



228 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

towards the coachman, he said, hastily, '^Adelante, Pedro, 
si p%iedes'^ 

The driver himself also smiled with gracious condescen- 
sion on the multitudes, as if he were some great personage ; 
and, with ineffable politeness, waved his whip slowly to the 
right and left, to beg his incommodious neighbours to re- 
strain themselves, and retire a little on either side. * Be 
good enough, gentlemen,' said he, at last, *to make a little 
room, a very little; just enough to let us pass/ 

The most active and benevolent now exerted themselves 
to make the passage so courteously requested; some 
before the horses made the people retire by civil words, by 
putting their hands on their breasts, and by sundry gentle 
pushes : ' There, there, a little room, gentlemen/ Others 
pursued the same plan at the sides of the carriage, so that 
it might proceed without crushing toes, or infringing upon 
mustachios; for, besides injury to others, these accidents 
would expose the reputation of Antonio Ferrer to great 
risk. 

After having stood a few moments admiring the behaviour 
of the old man, who, though agitated by perplexity and 
overcome with fatigue, was yet animated with solicitude, 
and adorned, so to say, with the hope of rescuing a fellow- 
creature from mortal anguish, Renzo put aside every thought 
of going away, and resolved to lend a hand to Ferrer, and 
not to leave him until he had obtained his purpose. No 
sooner said than done; he joined with the rest in endeavour- 
ing to clear a passage, and certainly was not among the least 
efficient. A space was cleared : * Now come forward,' said 
more than one to the coachman, retiring or going before 
to make room further on. ^Adelante, presto, con juicio.'* 
said his master, and the carriage moved on. Ferrer, in the 
midst of salutations which he lavished at random on the 
multitude, returned many particular acknowledgments with 
a smile of marked notice, to those who he saw interest- 
ing themselves for him; and of these smiles more than 
one fell to Renzo's share, who indeed merited them, and 
rendered more assistance to the high chancellor" that day 
than the bravest of his secretaries could have done. The 

^Go on, Peter, if you can. * Forward, quickly, but carefully. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 229 

young mountaineer, delighted with these marks of distinc- 
tion, almost fancied he had made acquaintance with Antonio 
Ferrer. 

The carriage, once more on its way, continued to advance, 
more or less slowly, and not without some further trifling 
delays. The distance to be traversed was not perhaps above 
a stone's throw; but with respect to the time it occupied, it 
might have appeared a little journey even to one who was 
not in such urgent haste as Ferrer. The crowds moved 
onward, before, behind, and on each side of the carriage, 
like the mighty billows around a vessel advancing through 
the midst of a storm. The noise was more shrill, more dis- 
cordant, more stunning, even than the whistling and howling 
of a storm itself. Ferrer, looking out first at one side and 
then at the other, beckoning and making all sorts of gestures 
to the people, endeavoured to catch something to which he 
might accommodate his replies; he tried as well as he could 
to hold a little dialogue with this crowd of friends; but it 
was a difficult task, the most difficult, perhaps, that he had 
yet met with during so many years of his high chancellor- 
ship. From time to time, however, a single word, or occa- 
sionally some broken sentence, repeated by a group in his 
passage, made itself heard, as the report of a large squib is 
heard above the continued crackling and whizzing of a dis- 
play of fireworks. Now endeavouring to give a satisfactory 
answer to these cries, now loudly ejaculating the words that 
he knew would be most acceptable, or that some instant 
necessity seemed to require, he, too, continued to talk the 
whole way. * Yes, gentlemen ; bread, abundance — I will con- 
duct him to prison: he shall be punished — si esta culpable. 
Yes, yes : I will command : bread at a low price. A si es. . . , 
So it is, I mean to say : the King our master would not wish 
such faithful subjects to suffer from hunger. Ox! ox! 
guardaos: take care we do not hurt you, gentlemen. Pedro, 
adelante, con juicio. Plenty, plenty! A little room, for 
pity's sake. Bread, bread. To prison, to prison. What?' 
then demanded he of one who had thrust half his body 
through the window to shout in his ear some advice or 
petition or applause, or whatever it might be. But he, 
without having time to hear the ' what ? ' was forcibly pulled 



230 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

back by one who saw him on the point of being run over 
by the wheels. With such speeches and repHes, amongst 
incessant acclamations, and some few grumbles of opposi- 
tion, which were distinguishable here and there, but were 
quickly silenced, Ferrer at last reached the house, principally 
by the aid of these good auxiliaries. 

The rest, who, as we have before related, were already 
here with the same good intentions, had in the mean while 
laboured to make and maintain a clear space. They begged, 
exhorted, threatened; and stamping, trampling, and pacing 
up and down, with that increased ardour and renewed 
strength which the near approach of a desired result usually 
excites, had succeeded in dividing the crowd into two, and 
then in repressing the two parties, so that when the carriage 
stopped before the door, there was left between it and the 
house a small em.pty space. Renzo, who, by acting a little 
both as a scout and guide, had arrived with the carriage, 
managed to place himself in one of the two frontiers of 
worthy people, who served at once both as wings to the 
carriage, and as a rampart to the too eager crowd of gazing 
by-standers. And helping to restrain one of these with his 
own powerful shoulders, he was also conveniently placed 
for seeing. 

Ferrer drew a long deep breath on perceiving this small 
open space, and the door still shut. * Shut,* here means not 
open; for, as to the rest, the hinges were almost wrenched 
out of the pillars; the door-posts shivered to pieces, crushed, 
forced, and dissevered ; and through a large hole in the door 
might be seen a piece of a chain, twisted, bent, and almost 
broken in two, which, if we may say so, still held them 
together. Some kind-hearted person had placed himself at 
this opening to call to those within ; another ran to let down 
the steps of the carriage: the old man rose, put out his 
head, and laying his right hand on the arm of this worthy 
assistant, came out and stood on the top step. 

The crowd on each side stretched themselves up to see him : 
a thousand faces, a thousand beards pressed forward; and the 
general curiosity and attention produced a moment of general 
silence. Ferrer, standing for that moment on the step, cast a 
glance around, saluted the geople with a bow, as if from a 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 23X 

rostrum, and laying his left hand on his heart, cried : ' Bread 
and justice;' then bold, upright, and in his robes, he descended 
amidst acclamations which rent the skies. 

Those within had, in the mean while, opened the door, or, 
to speak more correctly, had finished the work of wresting out 
the chain, together with the already more than half-loosened 
staples. They made an opening, to admit so ardently-desired 
a guest, taking, however, great care to limit the aperture to a 
space that his person would occupy. ' Quick, quick,' said he : 
* open it wide, and let me in : and you, like brave fellows, keep 
back the people ; don't let them follow me, for Heaven's sake ! 
Make ready a passage, for by and by ... Eh ! eh ! gentlemen, 
one moment,' said he to those within : ' softly with this door, 
let me pass : oh ! m.y ribs : take care of my ribs. Shut it now : 
no, eh ! eh ! my gown, my gown ! ' It w^ould have remained 
caught in the door, if Ferrer had not dexterously withdrawn 
the train, which disappeared from the outside like the tail of 
a snake that slips into a hiding-place when pursued. 

The door pushed to, and closed as it best could be, was then, 
propped up with bars within. Outside, those who constituted 
themselves Ferrer's body-guard laboured with shoulders, 
arms, and cries, to keep the space clear, praying from the 
bottom of their hearts that he would be expeditious. 

* Be quick, be quick,' said he, also, as he stood within the 
portico, to the servants who had gathered round him, and 
who, almost out of breath, were exclaiming: ^Blessings on 
you ! ah, your Excellency ! oh, your Excellency ! uh, your 
Excellency ! ' 

* Quick, quick,' repeated Ferrer ; ' where is this poor man ? ' 
The superintendent came down-stairs, half dragged along, 

and half carried by his servants, as white as a sheet. When 
he saw his kind helper, he once more breathed freely; his 
pulse again beat, a little life returned into his limbs, and a 
little colour into his cheeks : he hastened towards Ferrer, say- 
ing, 'I am in the hands of God and your Excellency. But 
how shall we get out of this house? It is surrounded by the 
mob, who desire my death.' 

* Venga con migo usted^ and be of good courage : my car- 
riage is outside ; quick, quick ! ' And taking his hand, he led 

5 Come with me, sir. 



232 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him towards the door, doing his best to encourage him: 
but in his heart thinking, 'Aqui esta el busillis! Dios nos 
valga !^ 

The door opened ; Ferrer led the way, followed by his com- 
panion, who, creeping along, clung to the toga of his deliv- 
erer, like a little child to its mother's gown. Those who had 
kept the space clear, now raised their hands and hats so as to 
form a kind of net or cloud to screen the superintendent from 
the perilous gaze of the populace, and allow him to enter the 
carriage, where he concealed himself, by crouching in a cor- 
ner. Ferrer then got in, and the door was shut. The people 
knew or guessed what had happened, and sent forth a con- 
fused shout of applauses and imprecations. 

It may seem that the most difficult and hazardous part of 
the journey still remained to be performed; but the public 
desire of letting the superintendent be carried to prison, was 
sufficiently evident; and during the stay of the chancellor in 
the house, many of those who had facilitated his arrival had 
so busied themselves in preparing and maintaining a passage 
through the midst of the crowd, that on its return the carriage 
could proceed at a quicker pace, and without further delays. 
As fast as it advanced, the two crowds, repelled on both sides, 
fell back and mingled again behind it. 

As soon as Ferrer had seated himself, he bent down, and 
advised the vicar to keep himself well concealed in the 
corner, and not show himself for Heaven's sake; but there 
was no necessity for this warning. He, on the contrary, was 
obliged to display himself at the window, to attract and 
engage the attention of the multitude : and through the whole 
course of this drive he was occupied, as before, in making, 
to his changeable audience, the most lengthened and most 
unconnected harangue that ever was uttered ; only interrupt- 
ing it occasionally with some Spanish word or two, which 
he turned to whisper hastily in the ear of his squatting com- 
panion. * Yes, gentlemen, bread and justice. To the castle, 
to prison, under my guard. Thank you, thank you; a thou- 
sand thanks. No, no ; he shall not escape ! For ablandarlos? 
It is too just; we will examine, we will see. I also wish you 
well, gentlemen. A severe punishment. Esto lo digo por su 
^Here is the difficult point. God help us I '^It is to coax them» 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 233 

hienf "A just tariff, a fair limit, and punishment to those 
who would starve you. Stand aside, I beg of you. — Yes, yes, 
I am an honest man, a friend of the people. He shall be 
punished. It is true, he is a rogue, a rascal. Perdone 
ustedt It will go ill with him, it will go ill with him . . . 
Si esta culpable^^ Yes, yes ; we will make the bakers plough 
straightforward. Long live the king, and the good Milanese, 
his most faithful subjects! It is bad, very bad. Animo; 
estamos ya quasi afuera/ " 

They had, in fact, traversed the thickest part of the crowd, 
and were now just on the point of issuing into the open 
street. Here Ferrer, as he began to give his lungs a little 
rest, met his tardy allies, those Spanish soldiers, who, 
towards the end, had not been quite useless, since, supported 
and directed by some citizen, they had assisted to disperse 
a few of the mob in quiet, and to keep open a passage for 
the final exit. On the arrival of the carriage, they made way 
and presented arms to the high chancellor, who returned the 
acknowledgment by a bow to the right and left; and to the 
officer who approached nearer to salute him, he said, accom- 
panying the words with a wave of his right hand 'Beso a 
listed las manos;'^^ which the officer took for what it really 
meant — You have given me fine assistance ! In reply, he 
made another low bow, and shrugged his shoulders. It 
would have been appropriate enough to add, Cedant arma 
togcB, but Ferrer was not at that moment in a humour for 
quotations; and had he been, his words would have been 
wasted on the winds, for the officer did not understand Latin. 

Pedro regained his ancient spirit in passing between these 
two files of puppets and these muskets so respectfully ele- 
vated. Having recovered from his consternation, he remem- 
bered who he was, and whom he was driving; and shouting 
* Obey ! obey ! ' without the addition of other complimentary 
speeches to the mob, now sufficiently reduced in number to 
allow of his venturing on such treatment, he whipped on his 
horses, and took the road towards the castle. 

'Levantese, levantese; estamos afuera,''^ said Ferrer to 

8 I say this for your good. » Excuse me, sir. lo If he be guilty. 

"■Courage! we are almost out of danger. 

12 Your servant, sir: literally, 'I kiss your hand.' 

^ Get up, get up; we are out of danger. 



234 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the superintendent, who, reassured by the cessation of the 
cries, by the rapid motion of the carriage, and by these 
words, uncovered and stretched himself, rose, and recov- 
ering himself a little, began to overwhelm his liberator with 
thanks. Ferrer, after having condoled with him on his 
perilous situation, and congratulated him on his safety, ex- 
claimed, running the palm of his hand over his bald pate, 
*Ah, qiie dira de esto su Excelencia^^ who is already beside 
himself, for this cursed Casale, that won't surrender? Que 
dira el Conde Duque^^ who starts with fear if a leaf makes 
more noise than usual ? Que dira el Rey nuestro senor^^ who 
will be sure to hear something of a great tumult? And when 
will it be over? Dios lo sahe^'' 

*Ah ! as to myself, I will meddle no more in the business,' 
said the superintendent: *I wash my hands of it; I resign 
my office into your Excellency's hands, and will go and live 
in a cave, or on a mountain, like a hermit, far, far av/ay 
from this inhuman rabble/ 

^Usted will do what is best por el servicio de su Magestad^^ 
gravely replied the chancellor. 

*His Majesty does not desire my death,* answered the 
superintendent. ' In a cave, in a cave, far from these people.' 
What followed afterwards upon this proposal is not recorded 
by our author, who, after accompanying the poor man to the 
castle, makes no further mention of his proceedings. 

^* What will Ms Excellency say of this? ^^ What will the Count Duke 

$^y ? ^* What will the King our master say ? ^"^ God kaows» 

^ V^ou w!H doj sir, what is best for the setirice of his Majesty^ 




CHAPTER XIV 

I HE crowd that was left behind began to disperse, 
and to branch off to the right and left along the dif- 
ferent streets. One went home to attend to his 
business; another departed that he might breathe the fresh 
air in a little Hberty, after so many hours of crowded con- 
finement; while a third set off in search of acquaintances, 
with whom he might have a little chat about the doings of 
the day. The same dispersion was going on at the other 
end of the street, where the crowd was sufficiently thinned > 
to allow the troop of Spaniards to advance, and approach 
the superintendent's house, without having to fight their way. 
Around this, the dregs, so to say, of the insurgents were still 
congregated — a handful of rascals who, discontented with 
so quiet and imperfect a termination to such great prepara- 
tions, grumbled, cursed, and consulted, to encourage them- 
selves in seeking if something further might not be under- 
taken; and, by way of experiment, began beating and 
pounding at the unfortunate door, which had been again 
barred and propped up within. On the arrival of the troop, 
these, without previous consultation, but with a unanimous 
resolution, moved off, and departed by the opposite side, 
leaving the post free to the soldiers, who took possession 
of it, and encamped as a guard to the house and street. But 
the neighbouring streets and squares were still full of scat- 
tered groups : where two or three were standing, three, four, 
twenty others would stop ; some would depart, others arrive : 
it was like those little straggling clouds that sometimes re- 
main scattered and shifting over the azure sky after a storm, 
and make one say, on looking upwards. The weather is 
not settled yet. There was heard a confused and varying 
sound of voices: one was relating with much energy the 
particular incidents he had witnessed; another recounted 
what he himself had done ; another congratulated his neigh- 
bours on this peaceable termination, applauded Ferrer, and 
prognosticated dire evils about to fall on the sugerintendentj 

235 



236 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

others laughed at the idea, and asserted that no harm would 
be done him, because a wolf does not prey upon a wolf; 
while others more angrily murmured because things had not 
been managed properly — said that it was all a hoax, and 
that they were fools to have made such a hubbub, only to 
allow themselves, after all, to be cozened in this manner. 

Meanwhile, the sun had set, and twilight spread its uni- 
form sombreness over all objects. Many, wearied with the 
exertions of the day, and tired of gossiping in the dark, re- 
turned to their respective homes. Our youth, after having 
assisted the progress of the carriage so long as there was 
need of assistance, and having followed it even between the 
two files of soldiers, as in triumph, was satisfied when he 
saw it rolling along, uninterruptedly, out of danger; and 
accompanying the crowd a little way, he soon deserted it by 
the first outlet, that he might breathe a little fresh air in 
quiet. After taking a few steps at large, in the midst of 
much agitation from so many new scenes, so many passions, 
and so many recent and confused remembrances, he began 
to feel his need both of food and rest; and kept looking up 
from side to side, in hopes of seeing a sign of some inn, since 
it was too late to go to the convent. As He thus proceeded, 
gazing upwards, he suddenly lit upon a group of gossips; 
and stopping to listen, he heard them, as they talked, making 
conjectures, proposals, and designs for the morrow. After 
listening a moment or two, he could not resist putting in 
his word, thinking that he who had done so much might, 
without presumption, join a little in the conversation. Per- 
suaded, from what he had seen during the day, that to 
accomplish anything, it was only necessary to suggest it to 
the populace, * My good sirs,' cried he, by way of exordium : 
*may I, too, give my poor opinion? My poor opinion is 
this: that there are other iniquities besides this of bread. 
Now we've seen plain enough to-day that we can get justice 
by making ourselves felt. Then let us proceed until all 
these grieva^nces are cured, that the world may move for- 
ward in a little more Christian fashion. Isn't it true, gentle- 
men, that there's a set of tyr^its who set at nought the Ten 
Commandments, and search out poor people, (who don't 
trouble their heads about them,) just to do them every 



I PROMBSSI SPOSI 237 

mischief they can; and yet they're always in the right? 
Nay, when they've been acting the rascal more than usual, 
then hold their heads higher than at other times? Yes, and 
even Milan has its share of them/ 

* Too many,* said a vJDice. 

* So I say,' rejoined Renzo: 'the accounts of them have 
already reached our ears. And, besides, the thing speaks 
for itself. Let us suppose, for instance, that one of those 
I am talking about should have one foot outside and one 
in Milan: if he's a devil there, he won't be an angel here, 
1 fancy. Yet just tell me, sirs, whether you've ever seen 
one of these men behind the grating I And the worst of it 
is (and this I can affirm with certainty), there are proclama> 
tions in plenty published, to punish them; and those not 
proclamations without meaning, but well drawn out; you 
can't find anything better done: there are all sorts of vil- 
lanies clearly mentioned, exactly as they happen, and to each 
one its proper punishment. It says : " Whoever it may be, 
ignoble or plebeians," and what not besides. Now, just go 
and ask doctors, scribes, and pharisees, to see justice done 
to you, as the proclamation warrants, and they will give you 
as much ear as the Pope does to vagabonds: it's enough to 
make any honest fellow turn desperate. It is plain enough, 
then, that the king, and those who command under him, 
are desirous that knaves should be duly punished; but 
nothing is done because there is some league between them. 
We, therefore, ought to break it; we should go to-morrow 
morning to Ferrer, who is a worthy man, and a tractable 
signor; we saw to-day how glad he was to be amongst the 
poor people, and how he tried to hear what was said to him, 
and answered with such condescension. We should go to 
Ferrer, and tell him how things stand; and I, for my part, 
can tell him some fine doings; for I saw with my own eyes 
a proclamation with ever so many arms at the top, which 
had been made by three of the rulers, for there was the name 
of each of them priipt^d plain below, and one of these names 
was Ferrer, seen by me with my own eyes: now, this edict 
exactly suited my case ; and a doctor, to whom I applied for 
justice, according to the intention of these three gentlemen, 
among whom was Ferrer himself, this signor doctor, who 



238 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

had himself shown me the proclamation, and a fine one it is, 
aha ! thought tt:l2t I was talking to him' like a madman ! I'm 
sure that when this worthy old fellow hears some of these 
fine doings, for he cannot know all, particularly those in the 
country, he won't be willing to let the world go on this 
way, but will find some remedy for it. And besides, they 
who make the proclamations ought to wish that they should 
be obeyed; for it is an insult to count as nothing an edict 
with their name fixed to it. And if the powerful ones won't 
lower their heads, and will still play the fool, we are ready 
to make them, as we've done to-day. I don't say that he 
should go about in his carriage, to carry off every powerful 
and overbearing rascal : eh^ eh ! it would require Noah's ark 
for that. But he ought to command all those whose business 
it is, not only in Milan, but everywhere, to do things as the 
proclamations require; and draw up an indictment against 
all those who have committed these iniquities; and where it 
says, prison, — to prison; where it says, galleys, — to the gal- 
leys ; and bid the podesth do his duty ; if he won't, send him^ 
about his business, and put a better man in his place; 
and then besides, as I said, we should be ready to lend 
a hand. And he ought to order the lawyers to listen to 
the poor, and to talk reasonably. Don't I say right, my 
good sirs ? ' 

Renzo had talked so earnestly, that from the beginning 
a great part of the assemblage had stopped all other con- 
versation, and had turned to listen to him; and, up to a 
certain point, all had continued his auditors. A confused 
clamour of applause, of * Bravo ; certainly, he is right ; it is 
too true ! ' followed his harangue. Critics, however, were 
not wanting. * Oh, yes,' said one, * listen to a mountaineer: 
they are all advocates ;' and he went away. * Now/ muttered 
another, * every ragamuffin must put in his word; and what 
with having too many irons in the fire, we sha'n't have bread 
sold cheap, which is what we've made this stir for.' Renzo, 
however, heard nothing but compliments, one taking him by 
this hand, another by that. ' I will see you to-morrow.— 
Where?— At the square of the Cathedral. — Very well— Very 
well — And something will be done.— And something wili 
be done.' 



I PHOMSSSI SPOSI 23^ 

'Which of these good gentlemen will direct me to an inn, 
where I can get something to eat, and a lodging for the 
night, that will suit a poor youth's pocket ? ' said Renzo. 

* I am at your service, my brave fellow,' said one who 
had listened attentively to his harangue, and had not yet 
said a word. *I know an inn that will just suit you; 
and I will introduce you to the landlord, who is my friend, 
and a very worthy man/ 

* Near at hand ? * asked Renzo. 

* Only a little way off,' replied he. 

The assembly dispersed; and Renzo, after several warm 
shakes of the hand from strangers, went off with his new 
acquaintance, thanking him heartily for his kindness. 

* Not a word, not a word,' said he : ' one hand washes the 
other, and both the face. Is it not one's duty to serve one's 
neighbour ? ' And as he walked, he kept making of Renzo, 
in the course of conversation, first one and then another in- 
quiry. * Not out of curiosity about your doings ; but you 
seem tired : where do you come from ? ' 

* I come,' replied Renzo, * as far as from Lecco.' 

* From Lecco ! Are you a native of Lecco ? ' 
' Of Lecco , . . that is, of the territory.' 

' Poor fellow ! from what I have gathered in your con- 
versation, you seem to have been badly treated.' 

' Eh ! my dear fellow, I was obliged to speak rather care- 
fully, that I might not publish my affairs to the world; but 
, . . it's enough; some day it will be known, and then . . , 
But I see a sign of an inn here; and, to say the truth, I 
am not inclined to go any further.' 

* No, no ; come where I told you : it's a very little way 
further,' said the guide : * here you won't be comfortable.' 

* Very well,' replied the youth : * I'm not a gentleman, 
accustomed to down, though: something good to supply the 
garrison, and a straw mattress, are enough for me: and 
what I most want is to find both directly. Here we are, 
fortunately.' And he entered a shabby-looking doorway, 
over which hung the sign of The Full Moon. 

*Well; I will lead you here, since you wish it,' said the 
incognito; and he followed him in. 

* Don't trouble yourself any further,' replied Renzo. 



240 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* However/ added he, ' you will do me the favour of taking 
a glass with me/ 

* I accept your kind offer/ replied he ; and he advanced, as 
being better acquainted with the place, before Renzo, through 
a little court, approached a glass door, lifted up the latch, 
and, opening it, entered with his companion into the kitchen. 

Two lights illuminated the apartment, suspended from 
two hooks fixed in the beam of the ceiling. Many persons, 
all of whom were engaged, were lounging on benches which 
stretched along both sides of a narrow, dirty table, occupying 
almost the whole of one side of the room: here and there 
a cloth was spread, and a few dishes set out; at intervals, 
cards were played, and dice cast, and gathered up; and 
everywhere were bottles and glasses. On the wet table were 
to be seen herlinghe, reali, and parpagliole^ which, could they 
have spoken, would probably have said: This morning we 
were in a baker's till, or in the pockets of some of the 
spectators of the tumult; for every one, intent on watching 
how public matters went, forgot to look after their own 
private interests. The clamour was great. A boy was going 
backwards and forwards in haste and bustle, waiting upon 
this table and sundry chess-boards : the host was sitting upon 
a small bench under the chimney-piece, occupied, apparently, 
in making and un-making certain figures in the ashes with 
the tongs; but, in reality, intent on all that was going on 
around him. He rose at the sound of the latch, and ad- 
vanced towards the new comers. When he saw the guide. — 
Cursed fellow ! thought he : — ^you are always coming to 
plague me, when I least want you ! — Then, hastily glancing 
at Renzo, he again said to himself : — I don't know you ; but, 
coming with such a hunter, you must be either a dog or a 
hare ; when you have said two words, I shall know which. — 
However, nothing of this mute soliloquy appeared in the 
landlord's countenance, which was as immovable as a pic- 
ture: a round and shining face, with a thick reddish beard, 
and two bright and staring eyes. 

* What are your commands, gentlemen ? * said he. 

* First of all, a good flask of wine,' said Renzo, * and then 
something to eat.' So saying, he sat down on a bench towards 

1 Di-fferent kinds of Spanish and Milanese coins. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 241 

the end of the table, and uttered a sonorous *Ah ! ' which 
seemed to say : it does one good to sit down after having been 
so long standing and working so hard. But immediately 
the recollection of the bench and the table at which he had 
last sat with Lucia and Agnese, rushed to his mind, and 
forced from him a sigh. He shook his head to drive away 
the thought, and then saw the host coming with the wine. 
His companion had sat down opposite to Renzo, who poured 
him out a glass, and pushed it towards him, saying : ' To 
moisten your lips.' And filling the other glass, he emptied 
it at one draught. 

' What can you give me to eat ? ' then demanded he of the 
landlord. 

*A good bit of stewed meat ? ' asked he. 

* Yes, sir ; a bit of stewed meat.' 

* You shall be served directly/ said the host to Renzo ; and 
turning to the boy : 'Attend to this stranger.' 

And he retreated to the fire-place. ' But . . .' resumed he, 
turning again towards Renzo : * we have no bread to-day.' 

*As to bread,' said Renzo, in a loud voice and laughing, 
' Providence has provided that.' And drawing from his 
pocket the third and last loaf which he had picked up under 
the Cross of San Dionigi, he raised it in the air, exclaiming : 
' Behold the bread of Providence ! ' Many turned on hearing 
this exclamation ; and, seeing such a trophy in the air, some- 
body called out : ' Hurrah for bread at a low price ! ' 

'At a low price ? ' said Renzo : 'Gratis et amore! 

' Better still, better still.' 

' But,' added he, immediately, ' I should not like these gen- 
tlemen to think ill of me. I have not, as they say, stolen it: 
I found it on the ground; and if I could find its owner, I am 
ready to pay him for it.' 

' Bravo ! bravo ! ' cried his companions, laughing more 
loudly, without its entering into one of their minds that these 
words seriously expressed a real fact and intention. 

* They think I'm joking; but it's just so,' said Renzo, to his 
guide ; and, turning the loaf over in his hand, he added : ' See 
how they've crushed it; it looks like a cake: but there were 
plenty close by it ! if any of them had had very tender bones 
they'd have come badly off.' Then, biting off and devouring 



242' ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

three or four motithfuls, he swallowed another glass of wine, 
and added, ' This bread won't go down alone. I never had 
so dry a throat. A great shouting there was ! ' 

* Prepare a good bed for this honest fellow/ said the 
guide; ' for he intends to sleep here,' 

*Do you wish a bed?' asked the landlord of Renzo, ad- 
vancing towards the table. 

' Certainly/ replied he : 'a bed, to be sure ; only let the 
sheets be clean; for, though I'm but a poor lad, I'm accus- 
tomed to cleanliness.' 

* Oh ! as to that,' said the host : and going to a counter that 
stood in a corner of the kitchen, he returned with an ink- 
stand and a little bit of writing-paper in one hand, and a pen 
in the other. 

* What does this mean ? ' exclaimed Renzo, gulping dov/n 
a mouthful of the stew that the boy had set before him, and 
then smiling in astonishment: 'Is this the white sheet, eh?' 

Without making any reply, the landlord laid the paper on 
the table, and put the inkstand by the paper: then stooping 
forward, he rested his left arm on the table and his right 
elbow, and holding the pen in the air, with his face raised 
towards Renzo, said to him : * Will you be good enough to 
tell me your name, surname, and country ? ' 

' What ?' said Renzo : ' What has all this to do with my bed ?* 

' I do my duty/ said the host, looking towards the guide ; 
'we are obliged to give an account and relation of every 
one that comes to sleep in our house : name and surname, and 
of what nation he is, on what business he comes, if he has 
any arms with him . . , how long he intends to stay in this 
city . . . They are the very words of the proclamation.' 

Before replying, Renzo swallowed another glass; it was 
the third, and from this time forward, I fear we shall not 
be able to count them. He then said, 'Ah ! ah ! you have the 
proclamation! And I pride myself upon being a doctor of 
law; so I know well enough what importance is attached to 
edicts.' 

' I speak in earnest,' said the landlord, keeping his eye on 
Renzo's mute companion; and going again to the counter, 
he drew out a large sheet, an exact copy of the proclamation, 
and came to display it before Renzo's eyes. 



I PROMESST SPOSI 243 

'Ah ! see ! ' exclaimed the youth, raising the re-filled glass 
in one hand, and quickly emptying it, while he stretched out 
the other, and pointed with his finger towards the unfolded 
proclamation ; * Look at that fine sheet, like a missal. I'm 
delighted to see it. I know those arms ; and I know what that 
heretical face means, with the noose round its neck.' (At the 
head of the edicts the arms of the governor were usually 
placed; and in those of Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova 
appeared a Moorish king, chained by the throat.) 

' That face means : Command who can, and obey who will. 
When that face shall have sent to the galleys Signor don 

never m.ind, I know who; as another parchment says, 

like this; when it has provided that an honest youth may 
marry an honest girl who is willing to be married to him, 
then I will tell my name to this face, and will give it a kiss 
into the bargain. I may have very good reasons for not tell- 
ing my name. Oh, truly ! And if a rascal, who had under 
his command a handful more of rascals; for if he were alone 
■ ' Here he finished his sentence with a gesture : * If a ras- 
cal wanted to know where I am, to do me an ill turn, I ask if 
that face would move itself to help me. I'm to tell my busi- 
ness ! This is something new. Supposing I had come to 
Milan to confess, I should wish to confess to a Capuchin 
Father, I beg to say, and not to a landlord.' 

The host was silent, and looked towards the guide, who 
gave no token of noticing what passed. Renzo, we grieve 
to say, swallowed another glass, and continued : ' I will 
give you a reason, my dear landlord, which will satisfy you. 
If those proclamations which speak in favour of good Chris- 
tians are worth nothing, those which speak against them are 
worth still less. So carry away all these bothering things, 
and bring us instead another flask; for this is broken.' So 
saying, he tapped it lightly with his knuckles, and added: 
* Listen, how it sounds like a cracked bottle.' 

Renzo's language had again attracted the attention of 
the party ; and when he ceased^ there arose a general murmur 
of approbation. 

' What must I do ? ' said the host, looking at th<5 incognito, 
who was, however, no stranger to him. 

*Away, away with them/ cried many of the guests; 'this 



244 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

countryman has some sense; they are grievances, tricks, im- 
positions ; new laws to-day, new laws ! ' 

In the midst of these cries, the incognito, glancing towards 
the landlord a look of reproof for this too public magisterial 
summons, said, ' Let him have his own way a little ; don't give 
any offence.' 

* I have done my duty,' said the host, in a loud voice ; and 
added, to himself: — Now I have my shoulders against the 
wall. — He then removed the pen, ink, and paper, and took 
the empty flagon to give it to the boy. 

* Bring the same sort of wine,' said Renzo ; * for I find 
it a worthy fellow, and will send it to sleep with the other, 
without asking its name or surname, and what is its business, 
and if it intends to stay any time in the city.' 

' Some more of the same sort,' said the landlord, to the boy, 
giving him the flask; and he returned to his seat under the 
chimney-piece. — More simple than a hare! — thought he, fig- 
uring away in the cinders: — and into what hands hast thou 
fallen ! Thou great ass ! If thou wilt drown, drown ; but the 
landlord of the Full Moon isn't obliged to go shares in thy 
folly !— 

Renzo returned thanks to his guide, and to all the rest who 
had taken his part. * Brave friends,' said he, ' now I see 
clearly that honest fellows give each other a hand, and sup- 
port each other.' Then waving his hand in the air, over the 
table, and again assuming the air of a speaker, * Isn't it an 
admirable thing,' exclaimed he, * that all our rulers will have 
pen, ink, and paper, intruding everywhere? Always a pen 
in the hand ! They must have a mighty passion for wielding 
the pen ! ' 

' Eh ! you worthy countryman ! would you like to know 
the reason? ' said a winner in one of the games, laughing. 

' Let us hear,' replied Renzo. 

'The reason is,' said he, 'that as these Signori eat geese, 
they find they have got so many quills that they are obliged 
to make something of them.' 

All began to laugh, excepting the poor man who had just 
been a loser. 

' Oh,' said Renzo, ' this man is a poet. You have some 
£>oets here, then : the^ are springing up everywhere. I have 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 245 

a little turn that way myself; and sometimes I make some 
fine verses . . . but that's when things go smoothly.' 

To understand this nonsense of poor Renzo's, the reader 
must know that, amongst the lower orders in Milan, and still 
more in the country, the term poet did not signify, as among 
all educated people, a sacred genius, an inhabitant of Pindus, 
a votary of the Muses ; it rather meant a humorous and even 
giddy-headed person, who in conversation and behaviour had 
more repartee and novelty than sense. So daring are these 
mischief-makers among the vulgar, in destroying the mean- 
ing of words, and making them express things the most for- 
eign and contrary to their legitimate signification ! For what, 
I should like to know, has a poet to do with a giddy brain ? 

* But I'll tell you the true reason,' added Renzo * ' It is be- 
cause they hold the pen in their own hand : and so the words 
that they utter fly away and disappear; the words that a 
poor lad speaks, are carefully noted, and very soon they fly 
through the air with his pen, and are down upon paper to be 
made use of at a proper time and place. They've also another 
trick, that when they would bother a poor fellow who doesn't 
know letters, but who has a little . » . I know what . . .' 
and to illustrate his meaning he began tapping, and almost 
battering his forehead with his forefinger, * no sooner do they 
perceive that he begins to understand the puzzle, than, for- 
sooth, they must throw in a little Latin, to make him lose the 
Aread, to prevent his defending himself, and to perplex his 
brain. Well, well ! it is our business to do away with these 
practices ! To-day everything has been done reasonably, in 
our own tongue, and without pen, ink and paper : and to-mor- 
row, if people will but govern themselves, we will do still 
better ; without touching a hair of their heads, though ; every- 
thing must be done in a fair way.' 

In the mean time some of the company had returned to theif 
gaming, others to eating, and many to shouting; some went 
away, and others arrived in their place; the landlord busied 
himself in attending upon all; but these things have nothing 
to do with our story. 

The unknown guide was impatient to take his departure; 
yet, though he had not, to all appearance, any business at the 
house, he would not go away till be had chatted a little with 



246 4LESSANDR0 MANZONl 

Renzo, individually. He, therefore, turned to him, and re- 
newed the conversation about bread ; and after a few of those 
expressions which had been, for some time, in everybody's 
mouth, he began to give his own opinion. ' Eh ! if I were 
ruling,' said he, ' I would find a way of making things right.* 

* How would you do ? ' asked Renzo, fixing on him two 
eyes more sparkling than usual, and twisting his mouth away, 
as it were to be more attentive. 

* How would I do ? ' said he ; ' I would have bread for all : 
for poor as well as rich.' 

'Ah ! so far well,' said Renzo. 

* See how I would do. First, I would fix a moderate price, 
that everybody could reach. Then I would distribute bread 
according to the number of mouths: for there are som.e in- 
considerate gluttons who would have all to themselves, and 
strive who can get the most, buying at a high price, and thus 
there isn't bread enough for the poor people. Therefore, dis- 
tribute bread. And how should that be done? See: give a 
note to every family, in proportion to the num.ber of mouths, 
to go and get bread at the bakehouses. To me, for example, 
they should give a note of this kind: — Ambrogio Fusella, by 
trade a sword-cutler, with a wife and four children, all 
of an age to eat bread (note that well) : let them have so 
much bread; and pay so many pence. But to do things 
justly it must always be in proportion to the number of 
mouths. You, we will suppose, ought to have a note for 
. . . your name ? ' 

* Lorenzo Tramaglino,' said the youth ; who, delighted with 
the plan, never recollected that it was entirely founded on 
paper, pen and ink, and that to put it in execution the first 
thing must be to get everybody's name. 

' Very well,' said the stranger ; ' but have you a wife and 
"children ? ' 

T ought, indeed . . . children, no . . . too soon . . . but 
a wife ... if the world went as it ought . . .' 

*Ah! you are single! Well, have patience; but a smaller 
portion . . .' 

* You are right; but if soon, as I hope . . . and by the 
help of God . . . Enough; and when I've a wife too?' 

* Then change the note, and increase the quantity. As I 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 247 

said; always in proportion to the number of mouths,' said 
the unknown, rising from his seat. 

' That is all very good,' cried Renzo ; and he continued 
vociferously, as he struck his hand upon the table: 'And why 
don't they make a law of this kind?' 

' How can I tell ? But I must bid you good night, and be 
off; for I fancy my wife and children have been looking out 
for me this good while.' 

' Just another little drop — another little drop,' cried Renzo, 
hastily filling his glass ; and, rising quickly, he seized the skirt 
of his doublet, and tried to force him to sit down again. 'An- 
other little drop; don't do me this insult.' 

But his friend disengaged himself with a sudden jerk, and 
leaving Renzo to indulge in importunity and reproaches as 
he pleased, again said : ' Good night,' and went away. Renzo 
shouted after him when he had even reached the street, and 
then sank back upon his seat. He eyed the glass that he 
had just filled; and seeing the boy passing the table, he de- 
tained him with a beckon of his hand, as if he had some 
business to communicate to him ; he then pointed to the glass, 
and, with a slow and grave enunciation, and pronouncing the 
words in a peculiar manner, said: 'See, I had prepared it 
for that worthy gentleman : do you see ? full to the brim, fit 
for a friend ; but he wouldn't have it ; people have very odd 
ideas, sometimes. I couldn't do otherwise; I let him see my 
kind intentions. Now, then, since the thing is done, I mus'n't 
let it go to waste.' So saying, he took it, and emptied it 
at a draught. 

' I understand,' said the boy, going away. 

* Ah ! you understand, do you ? ' replied Renzo ; ' then it 
is true. When reasons are sensible ! . . .' 

Nothing less than our love of truthfulness would induce 
us to prosecute a faithful account which does so little credit 
to so important a person, we may almost say, to the principal 
hero, of our story. From this same motive of impartiality, 
however, we must also state, that this was the first time that 
such a thing happened to Renzo; and it is just because he was 
not accustomed to such excesses that his first attempt suc- 
ceeded so fatally. The few glasses that he had swallowed 
one after another, at firsts contrary to his usual habits, partly 



248 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to cool his parched throat, partly from a sort of excitement 
of mmd which gave him no lilDerty to do anything in modera- 
tion, quickly went to his head ; a more practised drinker would 
probably never have felt them. Our anonymous author here 
makes an observation which we repeat for the benefit of 
those of our readers who know how to value it. Temperate 
and honest habits, says he, bring with them this advantage; 
that the more they are stablished and rooted in a man, so 
much the more easily, when he acts contrary to them, does he 
immediately feel the injury or inconvenience, or, to say the 
least, the disagreeability of such an action: so that he has 
something to remember for a time; and thus even a slight 
fault serves him for a lesson. 

However this may be, certain it is that when these first 
fumes had mounted to Renzo's brain, wine and words con- 
tinued to flow, one down, the other up, without measure or 
reason : and at the point where we have left him, he had got 
quite beyond his powers of self-government. He felt a great 
desire to talk : auditors, or at least men present whom he could 
imagine such, were not wanting; and for some time also 
words had readily occurred to him, and he had been able 
to arrange them in some sort of order. But by degrees his 
power of connecting sentences began woefully to fail. The 
thought that had presented itself vividly and definitively to 
his mind, suddenly clouded over and vanished ; while the word 
he wanted and waited for, was, when it occurred to him, in- 
applicable and unseasonable. In this perplexity, by one of 
those false instincts that so often ruin men, he would again 
have recourse to the flagon; but any one with a grain of 
sense will be able to imagine of what use the flagon was to 
him then. 

We will only relate some of the many words he uttered in 
this disastrous evening; the others which we omit would be 
too unsuitable; for they not only had no meaning, but made 
no show of having any — a necessary requisite in a printed 
book. 

*Ah, host, host,' resumed he, following him with his eye 
round the table, or under the chimney-piece; sometimes 
gazing at him where he was not, and talking all the time in 
the midst of the uproar of the party: ' What a landlord you 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 249 

are! I cannot swallow this . . . this trick about the name, 
surname, and business. To a youth like me ! . . . You have 
not behaved well. What satisfaction now, what advantage, 
what pleasure ... to put upon paper a poor youth? Don't 
I speak sense, gentlemen ? Landlords ought to stand by good 
youths . . . Listen, listen, landlord; I will compare you . , . 
because . . . Do you laugh, eh ! I am a little too far gone, 
I know . . . but the reasons I would give are right enough. 
Just tell me, now, who is it that keeps up your trade? Poor 
fellows, isn't it? See if any of these gentlemen of the procla^ 
mations ever come here to wet their lips.' 

* They are all people that drink water,' said one of Renzo's 
neighbours. 

* They want to have their heads clear/ added another, ' to 
be able to tell lies cleverly.' 

*Ah ! ' cried Renzo. * That was the poet who spoke then. 
Then you also understand my reason. Answer me, then, 
landlord ; and Ferrer, who is the best of all, has he ever come 
here to drink a toast, or to spend a quarter of a farthing? 
And that dog of a villain, Don . . . I'll hold my tongue, be- 
cause I'm a careful fellow. Ferrer and Father Cr-r-r . . . 
I know, they are two worthy men ; but there are so few worthy 
men in the world. The old are worse than the young ; and the 
young . . . worse again than the old. However, I am glad 
there has been no murdering; fye; cruelties that should be 
left for the hangman's hands. Bread ; oh yes ! I got some 
great pushes, but ... I gave some away too. Room ! 
plenty ! lorjg live ! . . . However, even Ferrer . . . some few 
words in Latin . . . sies haraos trapolonim , , . Cursed 
trick! Long live! . . . justice! bread! Ah, these are fair 
words ! . . . There we wanted these comrades . . . whei? 
that cursed ton, ton, ton, broke forth, and then again ton, ton. 
ton. We did not flee then, do you see, to keep that signoi 
curate there ... I know what I'm thinking about ! ' 

At these words he bent down bis head, and remained some 
time as if absorbed in some idea ; he then heaved a deep sigh, 
and raised a face with two piteous-looking eyes, and such 
an expression of disagreeable and stupid grief, that woe to 
him if the object of it could have seen him at that moment. 
But the wicked men around him, who had already begum 



250 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to divert themselves with the impassioned and confused elo- 
quence of Renzo, now hastened to ridicule his countenance 
tinctured with remorse ; the nearest to him said to the others : 
* Look at him ; ' and all turned towards the poor fellow, so 
that he became the laughing-stock of the unruly company. 
Not that all of them were in their perfect senses, or in their 
ordinary senses, whatever they might be; but, to say the 
truth, none of them had gone so far as poor Renzo : and still 
more, he was a countryman. They began, first one and then 
another, to provoke him with foolish and unmannerly ques- 
tions, and jesting ceremonies. One moment he would seem 
to be offended, the next, would take the treatment in joke; 
now, without taking notice of all these voices, he would talk 
of something quite different, now replying, now interrogating, 
but always by starts and blunders. Fortunately, in all this 
extravagance, he had preserved a kind of instinctive careful- 
ness not to mention the names of persons, so that even that 
which was most likely to be firmly fixed in his memory was 
not once uttered ; for deeply it would have grieved us if that 
name for which even we entertain a degree of respect and 
affection, had been bandied about, and become the sport of 
these abandoned wretches. 




CHAPTER XV 

HE landlord, seeing the game was lasting too long, 
and being carried too far, had approached Renzo, 
and, with the greatest politeness, requesting the 
others to leave him alone, began shaking him by the arm, 
and tried to m.ake him understand, and persuade him that 
he had better go to bed. But Renzo could not forget the 
old subject of the name, and surname, the proclamations, and 
worthy youths. However, the words * bed * and 'sleep,' 
repeated in his ear, wrought some kind of impression on 
his mind; they made him feel a little more distinctly his 
need of what they signified, and produced a momentary 
lucid interval. The little sense that returned to his mind, 
made him, in some degree, sensible that most of his com- 
panions had gone: as the last glimmering torch in an 
illumination shows all the others extinguished. He made 
a resolution; placed his open hands upon the table; tried 
once or twice to raise himself; sighed, staggered, and at 
a third attempt, supported by his host, he stood upon his 
feet. The landlord, steadying him as he walked along, 
guided him from between the bench and the table, and tak- 
ing a lamp in one hand, partly conducted, and partly 
dragged him with the other, towards the door of the stairs. 
Here, Renzo, on hearing the noise of the salutations which 
were shouted after him by the company, hastily turned 
round, and if his supporter had not been very alert, and 
held him by the arm, the evolution would have ended in a 
heavy fall: however, he managed to turn back, and, with 
his unconfined arm, began figuring and describing in the 
air sundry salutes like a running knot. 

* Let us go to bed ; to bed,' said the landlord, pushing 
him forward through the door; and with still more diffi- 
culty drawing him to the top of the narrow wooden stair- 
case, and then into the room he had prepared for him. 
Renzo rejoiced on seeing his bed ready; he looked gra- 
ciously upon his host, with eyes which one moment glistened 

251 



252 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

more than ever, and the next faded away, like two fire-flies : 
he endeavoured to steady himself on his legs, and stretched 
out his hand toward his host^s cheek to take it between his 
first and middle fingers, in token of friendship and grati- 
tude, but he could not succeed. * Brave landlord,' he at 
last managed to stammer out : ' now I see that you are a 
worthy fellow: this is a kind deed, to give a poor youth a 
bed ; but that trick about the name and surname, that wasn't 
like a gentleman. By good luck, I saw through it . . .' 

The landlord, who little thought he could have uttered 
anything so connected, and who knew, by long experience, 
how men in such a condition may be induced more easily 
than usual, suddenly to change their minds, was determined 
to take advantage of this lucid interval, to make another 
attempt. 

*My dear fellow,' said he, with a most coaxing tone and 
look, ' I didn't do it to vex you, nor to pry into your affairs. 
What would you have? There are the laws, and we must 
obey them; otherwise we are the first to suffer the punish- 
ment. It is better to satisfy them, and . . . After all, what 
is it all about ? A great thing, certainly, to say two words ! 
Not, however, for them, but to do me a favour. Here, 
between ourselves, face to face, let us do our business : tell me 
your name . . . and then go to bed with a quiet mind.' 

* Ah rascal ! ' exclaimed Renzo : * Cheat ! you are again 
returning to the charge, with that infamous name, surname, 
and business ! ' 

* Hold your tongue, simpleton, and go to bed,' said the 
landlord. 

But Renzo pursued more vehemently : * I understand : 
you are one of the league. Wait, wait, and I'll settle it/ 
And directing his voice towards the head of the stairs, he 
began to shout more vociferously than ever, * Friends ! the 
landlord is of the . . .' 

* I only said it in a joke,' cried he, in Renzo's face, repuls- 
ing him, and pushing him towards the bed — * In joke: 
didn't you understand that I only said it in joke?' 

*Ah! in joke: now you speak sensibly. When you say 
in joke . . . They are just the things to make a joke of.' 
And he sank upon the bed. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 253 

*Here; undress yourself, and be quick/ said the host, 
adding assistance to his advice; and there was need of it. 
When Renzo had succeeded in getting off his waistcoat, 
the landlord took it, and put his hands in the pockets to 
see if there were any money in them. His search was 
successful; and thinking that his guest would have some- 
thing else to do than to pay him on the morrow, and that 
this money would probably fall into hands whence a land- 
lord would not easily be able to recover any share, he 
resolved to risk another attempt. 

* You are a good youth, and an honest man, aren't you ? ' 
said he. 

' Good youth, and honest man,' replied Renzo, vainly 
endeavouring to undo the buttons of the clothes which 
he had not yet been able to take off. 

'Very well,' rejoined the host: 'just settle, then, this 
little account; for to-morrow I must go out on some 
business . . .' 

* That's only fair,' said Renzo : ' I'm a fool, but I'm honest 
. . . But the money? Am I to go look for money 
now ! . . .' 

* It's here,' said the innkeeper ; and calling up all his 
practice, patience, and skill, he succeeded in settling the 
account, and securing the reckoning. 

*Lend me a hand to finish undressing, landlord,' said 
Renzo ; * I'm beginning to feel very sleepy.' 

The landlord performed the required office : he then spread 
the quilt over him, and, almost before he had time to say, 
disdainfully, * Good night ! ' Renzo was snoring fast 
asleep. Yet, with that sort of attraction which sometimes 
induces us to contemplate an object of dislike as well as 
of affection, and which, perhaps, is nothing else than a 
desire of knowing what operates so forcibly on our mind, 
he paused, for a moment, to contemplate so annoying a 
guest, holding the lamp towards his face, and throwing the 
light upon it with a strong reflection, by screening it with 
his hand, almost in the attitude in which Psyche is depicted, 
when stealthily regarding the features of her unknown 
consort. — Mad blockhead! — said he, in his mind, to the 
poor sleeper,— you've certainly taken the way to look for 



254 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

it. To-morrow you'll be able to tell me how youVe liked 
it. Clowns, who will stroll over the world, without know- 
ing whereabouts the sun rises, just to bring themselves and 
their neighbours into trouble! — 

So saying, or rather thinking, he withdrew the light, 
and left the room, locking the door behind him. On the 
landing-place at the top of the stairs, he called the land- 
lady, and bade her leave the children under the care of a 
young servant girl, and go down into the kitchen, to pre- 
side and keep guard in his stead. * I must go out, thanks 
to a stranger who has arrived here, to my misfortune,' said 
he; and he briefly related the annoying circumstance. He 
then added : * Have your eyes everywhere ; and, above all, 
be prudent this unfortunate day. There's a group of licen- 
tious fellows down below, who, between drink and their 
own inclination, are ready enough to talk, and will say 
anything. It will be enough, if a rash . . .' 

* Oh, I'm not a child ; and I know well enough what's 
to be done. I think you can't say that, up to this time . . .' 

' Well, well ; and be sure they pay ; and pretend not to 
hear anything they say about the superintendent of pro- 
visions, and the governor, and Ferrer, and the decurioni, 
and the cavaliers, and Spain, and France, and such fool- 
eries; for if you contradict them, you'll come off badly 
directly; and if you agree with them, you may fare badly 
afterwards: and you know well enough, that sometimes 
those who say the worst things . . . But enough; when 
you hear certain sayings, turn away your head, and cry, " I'm 
coming," as if somebody was calling you from the other 
side; I'll come back as quick as I can.' 

So saying, he went down with her into the kitchen, and 
gave a glance round, to see if there was anything new of 
consequence; took down his hat and cloak from a peg, 
reached a short, thick stick out of the corner, summed 
up, in one glance at his wife, the instructions he had given 
her, and went out. But during these preparations, he had 
again resumed the thread of the apostrophe begun at 
Renzo's bedside; and continued it, even while proceeding 
on his walk. 

—Obstinate fellow of a mountaineer! — For, however 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 255 

Renzo was determined to conceal his condition, this quali- 
fication had betrayed itself in his words, pronunciation, 
appearance, and actions. — Such a day as this, by good 
policy and judgment, I thought to have come off clear; and 
you must just come in at the end of it, to spoil the egg in the 
hatching. Were there no other inns in Milan, that you must 
just light upon mine? Would that you had even lit upon it 
alone ! I would then have shut my eyes to it to-night, and 
to-morrow morning would have given you a hint. But, my 
good sir, no; you must come in company; and, to do better 
still, in company with a sheriff. — 

At every step the innkeeper met either with solitary 
passengers, or persons in groups of three or four, whisper- 
ing together. At this stage of his mute soliloquy, he saw 
a patrol of soldiers approaching, and, going a little aside, 
peeped at them from under the corner of his eye as they passed, 
and continued to himself: — There go the fool-chastisers. 
And you, great ass, because you saw a few people rambling 
about and making a noise, it must even come into your 
brain that the world is turning upside down. And on this 
fine foundation you have ruined yourself, and are trying 
to ruin me too; this isn't fair. I did my best to save you; 
and you, you fool, in return, have very nearly made a dis- 
turbance in my inn. Now you must get yourself out of the 
scrape, and I will look to my own business. As if I wanted 
to know your name out of curiosity ! What does it matter 
to me, whether it be Thaddeus or Bartholomew? A mighty 
desire I have to take the pen in hand; but you are not the 
only people who would have things all their own way. I 
know, as well as you, that there are proclamations which 
go for nothing: a fine novelty, that a mountaineer should 
come to tell me that! But you don't know that proclama- 
tions against landlords are good for something. And you 
pretend to travel over the land, and speak; and don't know 
that, if one would have one's own way, and carry the 
proclamations in one's pocket, the first thing requisite is 
not to speak against them in public. And for a poor inn- 
keeper who was of your opinion, and didn't ask the name 
of any one who happens to favour him with his company, 
do you know, you fool, what good things are in store for 



256 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him? Under 'pain of three hundred crowns to any one 
of the aforesaid landlords, tavern-keepers, and others, as 
above; there are three hundred crowns hatched; and now 
to spend them well; to he applied, two-thirds to the royal 
chamber, and the other third to the accuser or informer: 
what a fine bait ! And in case of inability, five years in 
the galleys, and greater punishment, pecuniary or corporal, 
at the will of his Excellency. Much obliged for all his 
favours. — 

At these words the landlord reached the door of the court 
of the high-sheriff. 

Here, as at all the other secretaries' offices, much busi- 
ness was going forward. Everywhere they were engaged 
in giving such orders as seemed most likely to pre-occupy 
the following day, to take away every pretext for discon- 
tent, to overcome the boldness of those who were 
anxious for fresh tumults, and to confirm power in the 
hands of those accustomed to exercise it. The soldiery 
round the house of the superintendent were increased, and 
the ends of the street were blockaded with timber, and 
barricaded with carts. They commanded all the bakers 
to make bread without intermission, and despatched couriers 
to the surrounding country, with orders to send corn into 
the city; while noblemen were stationed at every bake- 
house, who repaired thither early in the morning to super- 
intend the distribution, and to restrain the factious, by 
fair words, and the authority of their presence. But to 
give, as the saying is, one blow to the hoop and another 
to the cask, and to render their cajolings more efficient 
by a little awe, they thought also of taking measures to 
seize some one of the seditious : and this was principally 
the business of the high-sheriff, whose temper towards the 
insurrection and the insurgents the reader may imagine, 
when he is informed of the vegetable fomentation which 
it was found necessary to apply to one of the organs of his 
metaphysical profundity. His blood-hounds had been in 
the field from the beginning of the riot: and this self-styled 
Ambrogio Fusella was, as the landlord said, a disguised 
under-sheriff, sent ahout for the express purpose of catch- 
ing in the act some one whom he could again recognize^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 257 

whose motions he could watch, and whom he could keep in 
mind, so as to seize, either in the quiet of the evening or 
next morning. He had not heard four words of Renzo's 
harangue, before he had fixed upon him as a capital object — 
exactly his man. Finding, afterwards, that he was just 
fresh from the country, he had attempted the master-stroke 
of conducting him at once to the prison, as the safest inn 
in the city; but here he failed, as we have related. He 
could, however, bring back certain information of his- 
name, surname, and cotintry; besides a hundred other fine 
conjectural pieces of information; so that when the inn- 
keeper arrived here to tell what he knew of Renzo, they 
were already better acquainted with him than he. He 
entered the usual apartment, and deposed that a stranger 
had arrived at his house to lodge, who could not be per- 
suaded to declare his name, 

* You've done your duty in giving us this information,* 
said a criminal notary, laying down his pen : * But we know 
it already.' 

— A strange mystery! — thought the host: — they must be 
wonderfully clever ! — 

* And we know, too,' continued the notary, ' this revered 
name ! ' 

— The name, too ! how have they managed it ? — thought 
the landlord again. 

* But you,' resumxcd the other, with a serious face, * you 
don't tell all, candidly,' 

* What more have I to say ? ' 

*Ha! ha! we know very well that this fellow brought to 
your inn a quantity of stolen bread — plundered, acquired 
by robbery and sedition.' 

* A man comes, with one loaf in his pocket ; do you think 
I know where he went to get it? for, to speak as on my 
death-bed, I can positively af!irm that I saw but one loaf.' 

'There! always excusing and defending yourself: one 
would think, to hear you, everybody was honest. How 
can you prove that his bread was fairly obtained ? ' 

*Why am I to prove it? I don't meddle with it; I am 
an innkeeper.' 

*You cannot, however, deny that this customer of yours 

HC 9— Vol. 21 



258 ALESSANDRO , MANZONI 

had the temerity to titter injurious v/ords against the 
proclamations, and to make improper and shameful joke^ 
on the arms of his Excellency.' 

' Pardon me, sir : how can he be called my customer, 
when this is the first time I've ever seen him? It was the 
devil (under your favour) that sent him to my house: and 
if I had known him, you, sir, know well enough 1 should 
have had no occasion to ask his name.' 

* Well : in your inn, in your presence, inflammatory 
speeches have been uttered, unadvised words, seditious- 
propositions; murmurs, grumbles, outcries.' 

* How can you expect, my good sir, that I should attend 
to the extravagPtnces v/hich so many noisy fellows, talking 
all at the same time, may chance to utter? I must attend 
to my interest, for I'm only badly off. And besides, your 
worship knows well enough that those who are lavish of 
their tongues are generally ready with their fists too, par- 
ticularly when there are so many together, and . . .' 

' Ay, ay ; leave them alone to talk and fight : to-morrow 
you'll see if their tricks have gone out of their heads. 
What do you think ? ' 

* I think nothing about it.' 

' That the mob will have got the upper hand in Milan ? ** 

* Oh, just so.' 

* We shall see, we shall see.' 

' I understand very well : the king will be always king ; 
and he that is fined v/ill be fined: but the poor father of a 
family naturally wishes to escape. Your honours have thd 
power, and it belongs to you.' 

'Have you many people stilF in your house?' 

' A world of them.' 

* And this customer of yours, what is he doing ? Does 
he still continue to be clamorous, to excite the people, and 
arouse sedition?' 

* That stranger, your worship means : he's gone to bed.' 

* Then, you've many people . . . Well, take care not to 
let them go away,' 

— Am I to be a constable? — -thought the landlord, with- 
out replying either negatively or affirmiatively. 

* Go home again, and be careful/ resumed the notary. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 259 

*IVe always been careful. Your honour can say whether 
I have ever made any opposition to justice.' 

'Well, well; and don't think that justice has lost its 
power.' 

* I ! For Heaven's sake ; I think nothing : I only attend 
to my business.' 

* The old song : you've never anything else to say.' 

* What else would your worship have me say ? truth is 
but one.' 

'Well, we will remember what you have deposed; if the 
case com.es on, you will have to give more particular in- 
formation to justice about whatever they may choose to ask- 
you.' 

' What can I depose further ? I know nothing. I have 
scarcely head enough to attend to my own business.' 

' Take care you don't let him go.' 

' I hope that his worship the high-sheriff will be informed 
that I came immediately to discharge my duty. Your 
honour's hum.ble servant.' 

By break of day. Renzo had been snoring for about 
seven hours, and was still, poor fellow, fast asleep, when 
two rough shakes at either arm, and a voice at the foot 
of the bed, calling, * Lorenzo Tram.aglino ! ' recalled him 
to his senses. He shook himself, stretched his arms, and 
with difficulty opening his eyes, saw a man standing before 
him at the foot of the bed, dressed in black, and two others 
armed, one on the right and the other on the left of his 
pillow. Betv/een surprise, not being fully awake, and the 
stupidity occasioned by the Vvdne of the night before, he 
lay, for a moment, as if bewildered; and then, thinking he 
was dreaming, and not being very well pleased with his 
dream, he shook himself so as to awake thoroughly. 

' Ah ! have you heard, for once, Lorenzo Tramaglino ? * 
said the man with the black cloak, the very notary of the 
night before. * Up ; up, then ; get up, and come with us.' 

* Lorenzo Tramaglino ! ' said Renzo : * What does this 
mean? What do you v/ant with me? Who's told you my 
name ? ' 

* Less talk, and up with you directly,' said one of the 
bailiffs who stood at his side^ taking him again by the arm. 



260 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Ah, eh! what oppression is this?' cried Renzo, with- 
drawing his arm. * Landlord ! ho, landlord ! ' 

* Shall we carry him off in his shirt ? ' said the bailiff 
again, looking towards the notary. 

*Did you hear that?' said he to Renzo: * they'll do so, 
if you don't get up as quick as thought, and come with us.' 

*And what for?' asked Renzo. 

' The what for you will hear from the high-sheriff/ 

*I? I'm an honest man; I've done nothing; and I'm 
astonished . . .' 

' So much the better for you — so much the better for 
you; for then you may be discharged with two words, and 
may go about your own business.' 

'Let me go now,' said Renzo: 'I've nothing to do with 
justice.' 

' Come, let us finish the business,' said one of the bailiffs. 

* Shall we carry him off ? ' said the other. 

* Lorenzo Tramaglino ! ' said the notary. 
' How do you know my name, sir ? ' 

'Do your duty,' said the notary to the bailiffs, who im- 
mediately laid hands on Renzo to pull him out of bed, 

* Hey ! don't you touch a hair of an honest fellow, or ! 
... I know how to dress myself.' 

'Then dress yourself, and get up directly,' said the 
notary. 

' I'm getting up,' replied Renzo ; and he began, in fact, 
to gather up his clothes, which were scattered here and 
there on the bed, like the relics of a shipwreck on the 
shore. And beginning to dress himself, he continued: 
* But I'm not inclined to go to the high-sheriff, not I. I've 
nothing to do with him. Since you unjustly put this affront 
upon me, I should like to be conducted to Ferrer. I know 
him; I know that he's a gentleman, and he's under some 
obligation to me.' 

' Yes, yes, my good fellow, you shall be conducted to 
Ferrer,' replied the notary. In other circumstances he 
would have laughed heartily at such a proposal; but this 
was not a time for merriment. In coming hither, he had 
noticed in the streets a movement which could not easily 
be defined, as the remainder of the old insurrection not 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 261 

entirely suppressed, or the beginning of a new one: the 
streets were full of people, some walking in parties, some 
standing in groups. And now, without seeming to do so, 
or at least trying not to show it, he was anxiously listen- 
ing, and fancied that the murmur continued to increase. 
This made him desirous to get off; but he also wished 
to take Renzo away willingly and quietly; since, if 
he had declared war against him, he could not have 
been sure, on reaching the street, of not finding three 
to one against him. He, therefore, winked at the bailiffs 
to have patience, and not to irritate the youth, while he 
also endeavoured to soothe him with fair words. Renzo 
busied himself, while dressing as quickly as possible, in 
recalling the confused remembrances of the day before, and 
at last conjectured, with tolerable certainty, that the 
proclamation, and the name and surname, must be the 
cause of this disagreeable occurrence; but how ever did 
this fellow know his name? And what on earth could 
have happened that night, for justice to have gained such 
confidence as to come and lay hands on one of those honest 
youths who, only the day before, had such a voice in the 
assembly, and who could not all be asleep now? for he also 
observed the increasing bustle in the street. He looked at 
the countenance of the notary, and there perceived the 
irresolution which he vainly endeavoured to conceal. At 
last, as well to satisfy his conjectures, and sound the 
officers, as to gain time, and even attempt a blow, he said, 

* I understand well enough the origin of all this ; it is all 
from love of the name and surname. Last night I certainly 
was a little muddled: these landlords have sometimes very 
treacherous wines; and sometimes, as I say, you know, 
when wine passes through the medium of words, it will 
have its say too. But if this is all, I am now ready to give 
you every satisfaction; and, besides, you know my name 
already. Who on earth told you it?' 

' Bravo, my boy, bravo ! ' replied the notary, coaxingly ; 

* I see you've some sense ; and believe me, who am in the 
business, that you're wiser than most. It is the best way 
of getting out of the difficulty quickly and easily; and with 
such good dispositions, in two words you will be dismissed 



262 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

and set at liberty. But I, do you see, my good fellow, have 
my hands tied; I cannot release you, as I should like to 
do. Come, be quick, and come along with a good heart; 
for when they see who you are . . . and then I vv^ill 
tell . , . Leave it to me . . , Enough; be quick, my good 
feMow/ 

* Ah ! you cannot ! I understand,' said Renzo ; and he 
continued to dress himself, repulsing, by signs, the intima- 
tions of the bailiffs, that they would carry him off if he 
were not very expeditious, 

' Shall we pass by the square of the cathedral ? ' asked he. 

* Wherever you like ; the shortest way, to set you the 
sooner at liberty,' said the notary, vexed in his heart, that 
he must let this mysterious inquiry of Renzo's pass, which 
might have served as the subject for a hundred interroga- 
tives. — When one is born to be unfortunate ! — thought he» 
— Just see; a fellow falls into m.y hands, who, plainly 
enough, likes nothing better than to talk; and if he could 
have a little time, he would confess all one wants, without 
the aid of a rope — e.rtra formam, to speak academically, 
in the way of friendly chit-chat; the very man to take to 
prison ready examined, without his being at all aware of 
it; and he must just fall into my hands at this unfortunate 
moment. Well ! there's no help for it, — he continued, listen- 
ing attentively, and tossing his head backwards — there's no 
remedy; it's likely to be a worse day than yesterday. — ■ 
What gave rise to this thought, was an extraordinary 
noise he heard in the street, and he could not resist open- 
ing the window to take a peep at it. He saw that it was a 
group of citizens, who, on being required by a patrol o£ 
soldiers to disperse, had at first given angry words in 
reply, and had finally separated in murmuring dissatisfac- 
tion; and, v\^hat appeared to the notary a fatal sign, the 
soldiers behaved to them with much civility. Having closed 
the window, he stood for a mom.ent in perplexity, whether 
he should finish his undertaking, or leave Renzo in the 
care of the two bailiffs, while he ran to the high-sheriff to 
give him an account of his difficulty. — But,- — ^thought he, 
directly, — ^they'll set me down for a coward, a base rascal, 
who ought to execute orders^ We are in the ball-roona^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 263 

and we must dance. Curse the throng! What a miserable 
business ! — 

Renzo now stood between the two satellites, having one 
on each side; the notary beckoned to them not to use too 
much force, and said to him, * Courage, like a good fellow ; 
let us be off, and make haste.' 

Renzo, however, v/as feeling, looking, thinking. He was 
now entirely dressed, excepting his jacket, which he held 
in one hand, and feeling with the other in his pockets; 
* Oho ! ' said he, looking at the notary with a very signifi- 
cant expression; 'here there were some pence, and a letter, 
my good sir ! ' 

' Everything shall be punctually restored to you,' said 
the notary, *when these fev/ formalities are properly exe- 
cuted. Let us go, let us go.' 

* No, no, no,' said Renzo, shaking his head ; ' that won't 
do; I want my money, m^y good sir. I will give an account 
of my doings; but I want my money.' 

* 1 11 show you that I trust you ; here, and be quick,' said 
the notary, drawing out of his bosom the sequestered 
articles, and handing them to Renzo with a sigh. Renzo 
received them, and put them into his pocket, muttering 
between his teeth : * Stand off ! you've associated so much 
with thieves, that you've learnt a little of their business.' 
The bailiffs could no longer restrain their impatience, but 
the notary curbed them with a glance, saying to himself, — 
If thou succeedest in setting foot within that threshold, 
thou shalt pay for this with interest, that thou shalt. — 

While Renzo was putting on his jacket, and taking up 
his hat, the notary beckoned to one of the bailiffs to lead 
the way down-stairs; the prisoner came next behind him, 
then the other kind friend, and he himself brought up the 
rear. On reaching the kitchen, and while Renzo was say- 
ing ; ' And this blessed landlord, where is he fled to ? * the 
notary made a sign to the two police officers, who, seizing 
each a hand, proceeded hastily to secure his wrists with 
certain instruments, called, in the hypocritical figures of 
euphemism, ni-fHes—m plain language, handcuffs. These 
consisted — we are sorry that we are obliged to descend to 
particulars unworthy of historical gravity, but perspicuity 



264 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

requires it — they consisted of a small cord, a little longer 
than the usual size of a wrist, ha-ving at the ends two 
little bits of wood^ — two tallies, so to say — two small 
straight pegs. The cord encircled the wrist of the patient; 
the pieces of wood, passed through the middle and third 
fingers, were shut up in the hand of the captor, so that by 
twisting them, he could tighten the bandage at pleasure; 
and thus he possessed means, not only of securing his 
prisoner, but also of torturing the refractory; to do which 
more effectually, the cord was full of knots. 

Renzo struggled, and cried, ^ What treachery is this ? 
To an honest man ! , . / 

But the notary, who had fair words at hand on every 
disagreeable occasion, replied, *Have patience, they only 
do their duty. What would you have? They are only 
formalities; and we can't always treat people as we would 
wish. If we don't do as we're bid, it will fare badly with 
us, and worse with you. Have patience !' 

While he was speaking, the two bailiffs gave a sudden 
twitch at the handcuffs. Renzo bore it as a restive horse 
bears the jerk of a severe bit, and exclaimed, 'Patience!* 

'Brave youth!' said the notary; *this is the best way of 
getting off well. What would you have? It is an annoy- 
ance, I know; but if you behave well, you'll very soon be 
rid of it. And, since I see that you're well-disposed, and 
I feel inclined to help you, I'll give you another little piece 
of advice for your good. You may believe me, for I'm 
practised in these matters; — go straightforward, without 
looking about, or attracting observation; so no one will 
notice you, no one will observe what you are, and you will 
preserve your honour. An hour hence you will be set at 
liberty. There is so much to be done, that they, too, will 
be in a hurry to have done with you; and, besides, I will 
speak . . . You shall go about your own business, and 
nobody will know that you've been in the hands of justice. 
[And you,' continued he, turning to the two bailiffs with a 
severe countenance, ' take care you don't do him any harm ; 
for I will protect him. You are obliged to do your duty; 
but remember that this is an honest man, a civil youth, 
who will shortly be at liberty, and who has some regard 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 265 

for his honour. Let nothing appear but that you are three 
honest men walking together/ And, in an imperative tone, 
and with a threatening look, he concluded : * You understand 
me ? ' He then turned to Renzo, his brow smoothed, and 
his face rendered^ in an instant, more cheerful and pleas- 
ant, which seemed to say, ' What capital friends we are ! ' 
and whispered to him again, * Be careful; do as I tell you; 
don't look about you; trust one who wishes you well; and 
now let us go/ And the convoy moved off. 

Renzo, however, believed none of these fine words; nor 
that the notary wished him well more than the bailiffs, nor 
that he was so mighty anxious about his reputation, 
nor that he had any intention of helping him; not a word 
of all this did he believe: he understood well enough that 
the good man, fearing some favourable opportunity for 
making his escape might present itself in the way, laid 
before him all these flattering inducements, to divert him 
from watching for and profiting by it. So that all these 
exhortations served no other purpose than to determine 
Renzo more decidedly on a course which he had indistinctly 
meditated, viz. to act exactly contrary to them. 

Let no one hereby conclude that the notary was an inex- 
perienced novice in his trade, for he will be much deceived. 
Our historian, who seems to have been among his friends, 
says that he was a matriculated knave; but at this moment 
his mind was greatly agitated. With a calm mind, I ven- 
ture to say, he would have laughed at any one who, to 
induce others to do something which he himself mistrusted, 
would have gone about to suggest and inculcate it so 
eagerly, under the miserable pretence of giving him the 
disinterested advice of a friend. But it is a general ten- 
dency of mankind, when they are agitated and perplexed, 
and discern what another can do to relieve them from 
their perplexities, to implore it of him eagerly and perse- 
veringly, and under all kinds of pretexts ; and when villains 
are agitated and perplexed, they also fall under this com- 
mon rule. Hence it is that, in similar circumstances, they 
generalty make so poor a figure. Those masterly inven- 
tions, those cunning subtleties^ by which they are accus- 
tomed to conquer, which have become to them almost a 



266 ALESSANDRO MANZOm 

second nature, and which, put in operation at the proper 
time, and conducted with the necessary tranquillity and 
serenity of mind, strike a blow so surely and secretly, and, 
discovered even after the success, receive such universal 
applause; these, when their unlucky employers are in 
trouble, are hastily and tumultuously made use of, without 
either judgment or dexterity; so that a third party, who 
observes them labouring and busying themselves in this m^an- 
ner, is moved to compassion or provoked to laughter; and 
those whom they attempt to impose upon, though less crafty 
than themselves, easily perceive the game they are playing, and 
gain light from their artifices, which may be turned against 
them. It can never, therefore, be sufficiently inculcated 
upon knaves by profession, always to maintain their sang 
froid, or, what is better still, never to get themselves into 
perplexing circumistances„ 

No sooner, therefore, were they in the street, than Renzo 
began to look eagerly in every direction, throwing himself 
about, bending his head forward, and listening attentively. 
There was, however, no extraordinary concourse; and 
though a certain air of sedition might easily be discerned 
on the face of more than one passer-by, yet every one went 
straight on his way; and of sedition, properly speaking, 
there was none. 

* Prudence ! prudence ! ' murmured the notary, behind 
his back : ' Your honour, your reputation, my good fellow ! ' 
But when Renzo, listening to three men who were approach- 
ing with excited looks, heard them speaking of a bake- 
house, concealed flour, and justice, he began to make signs 
at them by his looks, and to cough in such a way as indi- 
cated anything but a cold. These looked more attentively 
at the convoy, and then stopped; others who came up, 
stopped also ; others who had passed by, turned round on hearing 
the noise, and retracing their steps, joined the party. 

* Take care of yourself; prudence, my lad; it is worse 
for you, you see; don't spoil all: honour, reputation,' whis- 
pered the notary. Renzo v\^as still more intractable. The 
bailiffs, after consulting with each other by a look, and 
thinking they were doing quite right, (everybody is liable 
to err,) again twisted the manacles. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 267 

*Ah! all! ah!' cried the tortured victim: the by-standers 
gathered close round at the cry; others arrived from every 
part of the street, and the convoy came to a stand. * He is 
a dissolute fellow/ whispered the notary to those who had 
gathered around : * A thief taken in the act ! Draw back 
and make way for justice ! ' But Renzo, seeing this was the 
moment — seeing the bailiffs turn white, or at least pale, — If 
I don't help myself now, — thought he, — it's my own fault. — 
And he immediately called out, ' My friends ! they are 
carrying me off, because yesterday I shouted " Bread and 
justice ! " I've done nothing ; I am an honest man ! help 
tee ; don't abandon me, my friends ! ' 

A murmur of approbation, followed by more explicit 
cries in his favour, arose in reply; the bailiffs first com- 
manded, then asked, then begged the nearest to make v/ay 
and let them pass; but the crov^rd only continued still more 
to trample and push forward. The bailiffs, seeing their 
danger, let go of the manacles, and only endeavoured to 
lose themselves in the throng, so as to escape without 
observation. The notary earnestly longed to do the same; 
but this was more difficult on account of his black cloak. 
The poor man, pale in face and dismayed in heart, tried 
to make himself as diminutive as possible, and writhed his 
body about so as to slip away through the crov/d; but he 
could not raise his eyes, without seeing a storm gathering 
against him. He tried every method of appearing a 
Stranger who, passing there by chance, had found himself 
entangled in the crowd, like a bit of straw in the ice; and 
encountering a man face to face, who looked at him fixedly 
with a more terrible countenance than the others, he, com- 
posing his face to a sm^ile, with a look of great simiplicity, 
demanded, ' What is all this stir ? ' 

* Uh ! you ugly raven I ' replied the man. ' A raven I a 
raven ! ' resounded around. Pushes were added to cries, 
so that, in short, partly w^ith his own legs, partly by the 
elbows of others, he obtained what lay nearest to his heart 
at that moment, a safe exit from the pressing multitude. 



CHAPTER XVI 



* J ^ SCAPE, escape, my good fellow! here is a convent; 

■^ there is a church ; this v\^ay, that way/ was heard 

by Renzo on every side. As to escaping, the reader 



may judge whether he would have need of advice on this 
head. From the first moment that the hope of extricating 
himself from the talons of the police had crossed his mind, 
he had begun to form his plans, and resolved, if he suc- 
ceeded in this one, to flee without delay, not only out of the 
city, but also out of the duchy of Milan. — For, — thought he, 
— they have my name on their black books, however on 
earth they've got it; and with my name and surname, they 
can seize me whenever they like. — As to an asylum, he 
would not willingly have recourse to one, unless, indeed, he 
were reduced to extremity; — For, if I can be a bird of the 
woods, — thought he again, — I won't be a bird of the cage. 
— He had therefore designed as his limit and place of 
refuge, a village in the territory of Bergamo, where his 
cousin Bortolo resided, who, the reader may remember, had 
frequently solicited Renzo to remove thither. But now the 
point was how to find his way there. Left in an unknown 
part of a city almost equally unknown, Renzo could not even 
tell by which gate he should pass to go to Bergamo; and 
when he had learnt this, he still did not know the way to 
file gate. He stood for a moment in doubt whether to ask 
direction of his liberators; but as, in the short time he had 
had for reflection on his circumstances, many strong sus- 
picions had crossed his mind of that obliging sword-cutler, 
the father of four children, he was not much inclined to 
reveal his intentions to a large crowd, where there might 
be others of the same stamp; he quickly decided, there- 
fore, to get away from that neighbourhood as fast as he 
could ; and he might afterwards ask his way in a part where 
nobody would know who he was, or why he asked 
it. Merely saying, then, to his deliverers, * Thank you, 
thank you, my friends ; blessings on you i ' and escaping 

268 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 269 

through the space that was immediately cleared for him, 
he took to his heels, and off he went, up one little street, 
and down another, running for some time without know- 
ing whither. When he thought he was far enough off, 
he slackened his pace, not to excite suspicion, and began 
looking around to choose some person of whom he could 
make inquiries — some face that would inspire confidence. 
But here, also, there was need of caution. The inquiry 
in itself was suspicious; time pressed; the bailiffs, imme- 
diately on making their escape from this rencontre, would, 
undoubtedly, renew their search of the fugitive; the rumour 
of his flight might even have reached hither: and in such 
a concourse, Renzo might carefully scrutinize a dozen phy- 
siognomies, before he could meet with a countenance that 
seemed likely to suit his purpose. That fat fellow, standing 
at the door of his shop, with legs extended, and his hands 
behind his back, the prominent corpulency of this person 
projecting beyond the doorway, and supporting his great 
double chin; who, from mere idleness, was em.ploying him- 
self in alternately raising his tremendous bulk upon his toes, 
and letting it sink again upon his heels — he looked too much 
like an inquisitive gossip, who would have returned interrog- 
atories instead of replies. That other, advancing with fixed 
eyes and a drooping lip, instead of being able expeditiously 
and satisfactorily to direct another in his way, scarcely 
seemed to know his own. That tall, stout boy, who, to say 
the truth, certainly looked intelligent enough, appeared also 
rather maliciously inclined, and probably would have taken 
a mischievous delight in sending a poor stranger exactly the 
opposite way to the one he was inquiring after. So true is 
it that, to a man in perplexity, almost everything seems to be 
a new perplexity ! At last, fixing his eyes on one who was 
approaching in evident haste, he thought that he, having 
probably some pressing business in hand, would give an 
immediate and direct answer, to get rid of him ; and hearing 
him talking to himself, he deemed that he must be an unde- 
signing person. He, therefore, accosted him with the ques- 
tion, ' Will you be good enough to tell me, sir, which direction 
I should take to go to Bergamo? ' 
*To go to Bergamo? The Porta Orientale/ 



270 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

^ Thank you, sir : and to the Porta Orientale ? ' 

^ Take this street to the left ; you will come out into the 
square of the cathedral ; then . . / 

' That will do, sir ; I knov/ the rest. Heaven reward you/ 
And on he went by the way that had been pointed out to 
him. His director looked after him for a moment, and com- 
paring in his mind his way of walking, with the inquiry, 
thought within him^self, — Either he is after somebody, or 
somebody is after him. — 

Renzo reached the square of the cathedral, crossed it, 
passed by a heap of cinders and extinguished combustibles, 
and recognized the relics of the bonfire at which he had 
assisted the day before; he then passed along the flight of 
steps leading up to the cathedral, and saw again the bake- 
house of the Crutches half demolished, and gr.arded by sol- 
diers; still he proceeded onward, and, by the street which 
he had already traversed with the crov/d, arrived in front 
of the convent of the Capuchins, where, glancing at the 
square and the church-door, he said to himself with a deep 
sigh: — That friar yesterday gave me good advice, when he 
bid me go wait in the church, and employ myself profitably 
there. — 

Here he stopped a moment to reconnoitre the gate through 
which he had to pass ; and seeing, even at that distance, many 
soldiers on guard, his imagination also being rather over- 
strained, (one m.ust pity him; for he had had enough to 
unsettle it,) he felt a kind of repugnance at encountering the 
passage. Here he was, with a place of refuge close at hand, 
where, with the letter of recommendation, he would have 
been well received; and he felt strongly tempted to enter it. 
But he quickly sum.m.oned up his courage, ajid thought: — A 
bird of the woods, as lon^ as I can. Who know^s me? Cer- 
tainly the bailifi^s cannot have divided themselves into enough 
pieces to come and watch for me at every gate.- — He looked 
behind him to see if they were coming in that direction, and 
saw neither them, nor any one who seemed to be taking notice 
of him. He, therefore, set off again, slackened the pace of 
those unfortunate legs v/hich, with their own good will, would 
have kept constantly on the run, when it was much better 
only; to walk; and, proceeding leisurely along, whistling in 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 271 

an under-tone, he arrived at the gate. Just at the entrance 
there was a party of police-officers, together v/ith a rein- 
forcement of Spanish soldiers ; but these all had their atten- 
tion directed to the outside, to forbid entrance to such as, 
hearing the news of an insurrection, v/ould flock thither like 
vultures to a deserted field of battle; so that Renzo, quietly 
walking on, with his eyes bent to the ground, and with a 
gait between that of a traveller and a common passenger, 
passed the threshold without any one speaking a word to 
him: but his heart beat violently. Seeing a little street to 
the right, he took that way to avoid the high road, and con- 
tinued his course for some time before he ventured to look 
round. 

On he went; he came to cottages and villages, v/hich hcf 
passed without asking their names : he felt certain of getting 
away from Milan^ and ^lOped he was going towards Bergamo, 
and this was enough for him at present. From time to time 
he kept glancing behind him, while walking onwards, occa- 
sionally looking at and rubbing one or other of his wrists, 
which were still a little benumbed, and marked with a red line 
from the pressure of the manacles. His thoughts were, as 
every one may imagine, a confused medley of repentance, 
disputes, disquietude, revenge, and other more tender feel- 
ings; it was a wearying endeavour to recall what he had 
said and done the night before, to unravel the mysterious 
part of his mournful adventures, and, above all, how they 
had managed to discover his name. His suspicions naturally 
fell on the sword-cutler, to whom he remembered having 
spoken very frankly. And retracing the way in which he had 
drawn him into conversation, together with his v/hole be- 
haviour, and those proffers which always ended in v/ishing 
to know something about him, his suspicions were changed 
almost to certainty. He had, besides, some faint recollection 
of continuing to chatter after the departure of the cutler; 
but with whom? guess it, ye crickets; of what? his memory, 
spite of his efforts, could not tell him this: it could only re- 
mind him that he had not been at all himself that evening. 
The poor fellow was lost in these speculations : he was like a 
m^an who has affixed his signature to a number of blank for- 
mulae, and committed them to the care of one he esteemed 



272 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

honest and honourable, and having discovered him to be a 
shuffling meddler, wishes to ascertain the state of his affairs. 
What can he discover? It is a chaos. Another painful 
speculation was how to form some design for the future that 
would not be a merely aerial project, or at least a melancholy 
one. 

By and by, however, he became still more anxious about 
finding his way; and after walking for some distance at a 
venture, he saw the necessity of making some inquiries. 
Yet he felt particularly reluctant to utter the word * Ber- 
gamo,' as if there were something suspicious or dangerous in 
the name, and could not bring himself to pronounce it. He 
resolved, however, to ask direction, as he had before done at 
Milan, of the first passenger whose countenance suited his 
fancy, and he shortly met with one. 

* You are out of the road,' replied his guide ; and having 
thought a moment, he pointed out to him, partly by words and 
partly by gestures, the way he should take to regain the high 
road. Renzo thanked him for his directions, and pretended 
to follow them, by actually taking the way he had indicated, 
with the intention of almost reaching the public road, and 
then, without losing sight of it, to keep parallel with its course 
as far as possible, but not to set foot within it. The design 
was easier to conceive than -to effect, and the result was, 
that, by going thus from right to left in a zigzag course, partly 
following the directions he obtained by the way, partly cor- 
recting them by his own judgment, and adapting them to his 
intentions, and partly allowing himself to be guided by the 
lanes he traversed, our fugitive had walked perhaps twelve 
miles, when he was not more than six distant from Milan; 
and as to Bergamo, it was a great chance if he were not 
going away from it. He began at last to perceive that by this 
method he would never come to an end, and determined to 
find out some remedy. The plan that occurred to his mind 
was to get the name of some village bordering on the con- 
fines, which he. could reach by the neighbouring roads : and 
by asking his way thither, he could collect information, with- 
out leaving behind him the name of Bergamo, which seemed 
to him to savour so strongly of flight, escape, and crime. 

tWhile ruminating on the best way of obtaining these 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 273 

instructions without exciting suspicion, he saw a bush hang- 
ing over the door of a solitary cottage just outside a little 
village. He had for some time felt the need of recruiting 
his strength, and thinking that this would be the place to 
serve two purposes at once, he entered. There was no one 
within but an old woman, with her distaff at her side, and the 
spindle in her hand. He asked for something to eat, and 
was offered a little stracchino^ and some good wine ; he gladly; 
accepted the food, but excused himself from taking any wine, 
feeling quite an abhorrence of it, after the errors it had 
made him guilty of the night before ; and then sat down, beg- 
ging the old woman to make haste. She served up his meal 
in a moment, and then began to tease her customer with in- 
quiries, both about himself, and the grand doings at Milan, the 
report of which had already reached here. Renzo not only 
contrived to parry and elude her inquiries with much dex- 
terity, but even profited by the difficulty, and made the curi- 
osity of the old woman subservient to his intentions, when she 
asked him where he was going to. 

'I have to go to many places,' replied he: 'and if I can 
find a moment of time, I want to pass a little while at that 
village, rather a large one, on the road to Bergamo, near the 
border, but in the territory of Milan . , . What do they call 
it ? ' — There must be one there, surely, — thought he, in the 
mean while. 

' Gorgonzola you mean,' replied the old woman. 

' Gorgonzola ! ' repeated Renzo, as if to imprint the word 
better on his memory. * Is it very far from here ? ' resumed 
he. 

' I don't know exactly ; it may be ten or twelve miles. I£ 
one of my sons v/ere here, he could tell you.' 

* And do you think I can go by these pleasant lanes without 
taking the high road? There is such a dust there! such a 
shocking dust ! It's so long since it rained ! ' 

* I fancy you can : you can ask at the first village you 
come to, after turning to the right.' And she named it. 

' That's well,' said Renzo; and rising, he took in his hand 
a piece of bread remaining from his scanty meal, of a very 
different guality to that which he had found the day before 
* A kind of soft cheese. 



274 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

at the foot of the cross of San Dionigi; and paying the 
reckoning, he set off again, following the road to the right 
hand. By taking care not to wander from it more than was 
needful, and with the name of Gorgonzola in his mouth, he 
proceeded from village to village, until, about an hour before 
sunset, he arrived there. 

During his walk, he had resolved to make another stop 
here, and to take some rather more substantial refresh- 
ment. His body also craved a little rest; but rather than 
gratify this desire, Renzo would have sunk in a swoon upon 
the ground. He proposed gaining some information at the 
inn about the distance of the Adda, to ascertain dexterously 
if there was any cross-road that led to it, and to set off 
again, even at this hour, immediately after his repast. Born 
and brought up at the second source, so to say, of this river, 
he had often heard it said, that at a certain point, and for 
some considerable distance, it served as a boundary between 
the Milanese and Venetian states; he had no very distinct 
idea of where this boundary commenced, or how far it ex- 
tended; but, for the present, his principal object was to get 
beyond it. If he did not succeed in reaching it that evening, 
he resolved to walk as long as the night and his strength 
would allow him, and afterwards to wait the approaching 
day in a field, or a wilderness, or wherever God pleased, pro- 
vided it were not an inn. 

After walking a few paces along the street at Gorgon- 
zola, he noticed a sign, entered the inn, and on the land- 
lord's advancing to meet him, ordered something to eat, 
and a small measure of wine; the additional miles he had 
passed, and the time of day, having overcome his extreme 
and fanatical hatred of this beverage. * I must beg you 
to be quick,' added he ; ' for I'm obliged to go on my way 
again very soon.' This he said not only because it was 
the truth, but also for fear the host, imagining that he 
was going to pass the night there, should come and ask 
him his name and surname, and where he came from, and 
on what business ... But enough ! 

The landlord replied that he should be waited upon imme- 
diately; and Renzo sat down at the end of the table, near the 
door, the usual place of the bashful. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 275 

Some loungers of the village had assembled in this room, 
who, after having argued over, and discussed, and com- 
mented upon, the grand news from Milan of the preceding 
day, were now longing to know a little how matters were 
going on; the more so, as their first information was rather 
fitted to irritate their curiosity than to satisfy it; a sedition, 
neither subdued nor triumphant; suspended, rather than ter- 
minated, by the approach of night; a defective thing; the 
conclusion of an act, rather than of a drama. One of these 
detached himself from the party, and seating himself by the 
new comer, asked him if he came from Milan. 

' I ? ' said Renzo, in a tone of surprise, to gain time for a 
reply. 

' You, if the question is allowable.' 

Renzo, shaking his head, compressing his lips, and uttering 
an inarticulate soimd, replied ; ' Milan, from what I hear 
. . . from what they say around ... is not exactly a place to 
go at present, unless in case of great necessity.' 

* Does the uproar continue, then, to-day?' demanded his 
inquisitive com^panion more eagerly. 

' I must have been there to know that,' said Renzo. 

* But you — don't you come from Milan ? ' 

' I come from Liscate/ replied the youth, promptly, who, 
in the mean while, had decided upon his reply. Strictly 
speaking, he had come from there, because he had passed it; 
and he had learnt the nam.e from a traveller on the road, who 
had mentioned that village as the first he must pass on his 
way to Gorgonzola. 

' Oh ! ' said his friend, in that tone vv^hich seems to say : 
You'd have done better if you had come from Milan; but 
patience. ' And at Liscate,' added he, * did you hear nothing 
about Milan ? ' 

* There may very likely have been somebody who knew 
something about it,' replied the mountaineer, ' but I heard 
nothing.' And this was proffered in that particular manner 
which seems to mean: I've finished. The querist returned 
to his party, and a mom.ent afterwards, the landlord came 
to set out his meal. 

* How far is it from here to the Adda ? ' asked Renzo, in an 
under-tone, with the air of one who is half asleep, and an 



276 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

indifferent manner, such as we have already seen him assume 
on some other occasions. 

' To the Adda — to cross it? ' said the host. 

' That is ... yes ... to the Adda.' 

' Do you want to cross by the bridge of Cassano, or the 
Ferry of Canonica?' 

* Oh, I don't mind where ... I only ask from curi- 
osity.' 

* Well, I mention these, because they are the places gentle- 
men generally choose, and people who can give an account 
of themselves.' 

* Very well ; and how far is it ? ' 

' You may reckon that to either one or the other, it is 
somewhere about six miles, more or less.' 

' Six miles ! I didn't know that,' said Renzo. ' Well,' 
resumed he, with a still greater air of indifference, almost 
amounting to affectation, ' well, I suppose there are other 
places for crossing, if anybody is inclined to take a short 
cut?' 

' There are, certainly,' replied the landlord, fixing his eyes 
upon him with a look full of malicious curiosity. This was 
enough to silence all the other inquiries which our youth 
had ready on his lips. He drew his plate before him, and, 
looking at the small measure of wine which the landlord had 
set down on the table, said, * Is the wine pure ? ' 

^ As gold,' said the host ; ' ask all the people of the village 
and neighbourhood, for they know it; and, besides, you can 
taste yourself.' So saying, he turned towards his other cus- 
tomers. 

* Plague on these landlords ! ' exclaimed Renzo in his heart ; 
*the more I know of them, the worse I find them.' How- 
ever, he began to eat very heartily, listening at the same 
time, without appearing to pay any attention, to see what he 
could learn, to discover what was the general impression here 
about the great event in which he had had no little share; 
and, above all, to ascertain if, amongst these talkers, there 
was one honest man, of whom a poor fellow might venture 
to make inquiries, without fear of getting into a scrape, and 
being forced to talk about his own doings. 

* But,' said one, ' this time^ it seems clear the Milanese 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 277 

wanted to bring about a very good thing. Well ; to-morrow, 
at latest, we shall know something.' 

' I'm sorry I didn't go to Milan this morning/ said another. 

'If you go to-morrow, I'll go with you,' said a third; 'so 
will I,' said another ; ' and 1/ said another. 

' What I want to know,' resumed the first, ' is, whether 
these Milanese gentlemen will think of us poor people out 
of the city; or if they'll only get good laws made for them- 
selves. Do you know how they do, eh? They are all proud 
citizens, every one for himself ; and we strangers mightn't be 
Christians.' 

' We've mouths, too, either to eat, or to give our own 
opinions,' said another, with a voice as modest as the propo- 
sition was daring ; ' and when things have gone a little 
further . . .' But he did not think fit to finish the sentence. 

* There's corn hidden, not only at Milan,' another was 
beginning, with a dark and designing countenance, when 
they heard the trampling of a horse approaching; they ran 
to the door, and having discovered who it was, they all went 
out to meet him. It was a Milanese merchant who generally 
passed the night at this inn, in journeying two or three times 
a year to Bergamo on business; and as he almost always 
found the same company there, they were all his acquaint- 
ances. They now crowded around him; one took his bridle, 
another his stirrup, and saluted him with, ' Welcome.' 

* I'm glad to see you.' 

*Have you had a good journey?' 

* Very good ; and how are you all ? ' 

' Pretty well, pretty well. What news from Milan ? ' 

* Ah ! you are always for news,' said the merchant, dis- 
mounting, and leaving his horse in the care of a boy. ' And, 
besides,' continued he, entering tiie door with the rest of 
the party, ' by this time you know it, perhaps, better than I 
do.' 

*' I assure you we know nothing,' said more than one, lay- 
ing his hand on his heart 

* Is it possible ? ' said the merchant. ' Then you shall hear 
some fine ... or rather, some bad news. Hey, landlord, is 
my usual htd at liberty? Very well; a glass of wine, and my 
\m^ meal ; be quick, for I mmt go to bed early, and set ©k 



278 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to-moiTOW morning very early, so as to get to Bergamo 
by dinner-time. And you,' continued he, sitting down at 
the opposite end of the table to where Renzo was seated, 
silently but attentively listening, *you don't know about all 
the diabolical doings of yesterday ? ' 

' Yes, we heard something about yesterday.' 
'You see now!' rejoined the merchant; 'you know the 
news. I thought, when you are stationed here all day, to 
watch and sound everybody that comes by . . .' 
'But to-day: how have matters gone to-day?' 

* Ah, to-day. Do you know nothing about to-day ? ' 
' Nothing whatever ; nobody has come by.* 

^ Then let me wet my lips ; and af terv/ards I'll tell you 
about everything. You shall hear.' Having filled his glass, 
he took it in his right hand, and, lifting up his mustachios 
with the first two fingers of his left, and then settling his 
beard with the palm, he drank it off, and continued:— 
* There was little wanting, my worthy friends, to m.ake to- 
day as rough a day as yesterday, or worse. I can scarcely 
believe it true that I am^ here to tell you about it; for I had 
once put aside every thought of my journey, to stay and take 
care of my unfortunate shop.' 

' What was the matter, then ? ' said one of his auditors. 

* What was the m.atter ? you shall hear.' And, carving 
the meat that was set before him, he began to eat, at the 
same time continuing his narration. The crowd, standing 
at both sides of the table, listened to him with open mouths ; 
and Renzo, apparently giving no heed to what he said, 
listened, perhaps, more eagerly than any of the others, as 
he slowly finished the last few mouthfuls. 

' This morning, then, those rascals who made such a horri- 
ble uproar yesterday, repaired to the appointed places of 
meeting (there was already an understanding between them, 
and everything was arranged) ; they united together, and 
began again the old story of going from, street to street, 
shouting to collect a crowd. You know it is like when one 
sweeps a house — ^with respect be it spoken — the heap of dust 
increases as one goes along. When they thought they had 
assembled enough people, they set off towards the house of 
the superintendent of provisions; as if the treatment they 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 279 

gave him yesterday was not enough, to a gentleman of his 
character — the villains ! And the lies they told about him ! 
All inventions : he is a worthy, exact gentleman ; and I may 
say so, for I am very intimate with him, and serve him with 
cloth for his servants' livery. They proceeded then towards 
this house; you ought to see what a rabble, and what faces: 
just fancy their having passed my shop, with faces that . . . 
the Jews of the Via Crucis are nothing to them. And such 
things as they uttered ! enough to make one stop one's ears, if 
it had not been that it might have turned to account in dis- 
covering one. They went forward then with the kind inten- 
tion of plundering the house, but . . .' Here he raised his left 
hand and extended it in the air, placing the end of his thumb 
on the point of his nose. 

* But ? ' said almost all his auditors. 

' But,' continued the merchant, ' they found the street 
blockaded with planks and carts, and behind this barricade, 
a good file of soldiers, with their guns levelled, and the butt- 
ends resting on their shoulders. When they saw this prepara- 
tion . . . What would you have done ? ' 

' Turned back.' 

' To be sure; and so did they. But just listen if it wasn't 
the devil that inspired them. They reached the Cordasio, and 
there saw the bake-house which they wanted to plunder the 
day before: here they were busy in distributing bread to 
their customers; there were noblemen there, ay, the very 
flower of the nobility, to watch that everything went on in 
good order; but the mob (they had the devil within them, I 
tell you, and besides, there were som.e whispering in their 
ears, and urging them on), the mob rushed in furiously; 
" seize away, and I will seize too :" in the twinkling of an 
eye, noblemen, bakers, customers, loaves, benches, counters, 
troughs, chests, bags, sieves, bran, flour, dough, all were 
turned upside down.' 

' And the soldiers ? ' 

* The soldiers had the vicar's house to defend ; one cannot 
sing and carry the cross at the same time. It was all done 
in the twinkling of an eye, I tell you: off and away; every- 
thing that could be put to any use was carried off. And then 
they proposed again the beautiful scene of yesterday; — drag- 



280 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ging the rest to the square, and making a bonfire. They had 
already begun — the villains ! — to carry some things out of 
the house, when one greater villain than the rest — what do 
you think was the proposal he made ? * 
'What?' 

* What ! to make a pile of everything in the shop, and to 
set fire to the heap and the house together. No sooner said 
than done . . .' 

'Did they set fire to it?' 

* Wait. A worthy man of the neighbourhood had an in- 
spiration from Heaven. He ran up-stairs, sought for a 
crucifix, found one, and hung it in front of one of the win- 
dows; then he took two candles which had been blessed^ lit 
them, and set them outside, on the window-sill, one on each 
side of the crucifix. The mob looked up. It must be owned, 
there is still some fear of God in Milan; everybody came to 
their senses. At least, I mean most of them ; there were some, 
certainly, devils enough to have set fire to Paradise, for the 
sake of plunder ; but, finding that the crowd was not of their 
opinion, they were obliged to abandon their design, and 
keep quiet. Just fancy now who arrived — all their Graces 
of the Cathedral, in procession, with the cross elevated, and 
in their canonical robes; and my lord the Arch-presbyter 
began preaching on one side, and my lord the Penitentiary 
on the other, and others again, scattered here and there: 
" But, good people ; what would you do ? is this the example 
you set your children? go home, go home; you shall have 
bread at a low price; if you'll only look you'll see that the 
rate is pasted up at every corner," * 

* Was it so ? ' 

* What ? was it so ? Do you think that their Graces of 
the Cathedral would come, in their magnificent robes, to tell 
tbem falsehoods ? ' 

* And what did the people do ? ' 

' They dispersed by degrees ; some ran to the corners of the 
streets, and for those who could read, there was the fixed 
rate, sure enough. What do you think of it? eight ounces of 
bread for a penny.' 

* What good luck ! ' 

* The proof of the '£uddiii^ is in the eating. How mucS 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 281 

flour do you think they have wasted yesterday and this 
morning? Enough to support the Duchy for two months.' 

* Then they've made no good laws for us in the 
country ? ' 

' What has been done at Milan is entirely at the expense 
of the city. I don't know what to say to you: it must be as 
God wills. Fortunately, the sedition is finished, for I 
haven't told you all yet; here comes the best part,' 

' What is there besides ? ' 

* Only, that, last evening, or this morning, I'm not sure 
which, many of the leaders have been seized, and four of 
them, it is known, are to be hung directly. No sooner did 
this get abroad, than everybody went home the shortest 
way, not to run the risk of- becoming number five. When 
I left Milan, it looked like a convent of friars.' 

* But will they really hang them?' 
'Undoubtedly, and quickly, too,' replied the merchant. 

* And what will the people do ? ' asked the same inter- 
rogator as had put the other question. 

* The people will go to see them,' said the merchant. 
'They had such a desire to see a Christian hanging in the 
open air, that they wanted — the vagabonds ! — ^to despatch 
the superintendent of provisions in that way. By this ex- 
change they will have four wretches, attended with every 
formality, accompanied by Capuchins, and by friars of 
the buona morte:^ but they deserve it. It is an interference 
of Providence, you see; and it's a necessary thing. They 
were already beginning to divert themselves by entering 
the shops, and helping themselves without paying; if they'd 
let them go on so, after bread, wine would have had its 
turn, and so on from thing to thing. . . . You may imagine 
whether they would abandon so convenient a practice, of 
their own free will. And I can tell you, that was no very 
pleasant thought for an honest man keeping a shop.' 

2 ' A denomination usually given to the monks of the order of St. Paul, 
the first hermit. They are called Brothers of death, Fratres a mprte, on 
account of a figure of a Death's head which they were always to have with 
them, to remind them continually of their last end. This order, by its 
constitutions, made in 1620, does not seem to have been established long 
befo.e Pope Paul V. Louis XIII., in 1621, permitted them to settle in 
France. The order was, probably, suppressed by Pope Urban VIII. ,The 
fraternity of death buries such dead as are abandoned by their relations, 
and causes masses to be celebrated for them.' 



282 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 



' Certainly not/ said one of his hearers. * Certainly not/ 
replied the rest, in chorus. 

*And/ continued the merchant, wiping his beard with the 
table-cloth, 'it had all been projected for some time: there 
was a league, you know.' 

* A league, was there ? ' 

* Yes, there was a league. All cabals formed by the 
Navarrines, by that French cardinal there, you know, with 
a half-Turkish name, who every day contrives something 
fresh to annoy the court of Spain. But, above all, he aims 
at playing some trick in Milan; for he knows well enough 
— the knave — that the strength of the king lies there.' 

'Ay/ 

* Shall I give you a proof of it? Those v/ho've made the 
greatest noise were strangers ; there were faces going about 
which had never before been seen in Milan. By the by, I 
forgot to tell you one thing which was told me for certain. 
The police had caught one of these fellows in an inn , . .' 
Renzo, who had not lost a single syllable of this conversa- 
tion, was taken with a cold shudder on hearing this chord 
touched, and almost slipped under the table before he 
thought of trying to contain himself. No one, however, 
perceived it; and the speaker, without interrupting his 
relation for a moment, had continued : ' They don't exactly 
know where he came from, who sent him, nor what kind 
of man he was, but he was certainly one of the leaders. 
Yesterday, in the midst of the uproar, he played the very 
devil; and then, not content with that, he must begin to 
harangue the people, and propose — a mere trifle ! — to mur- 
der all the nobility ! The great rascal ! Who would 
support the poor if all the nobles were killed? The police, 
who had been watching him, laid hands upon him; they 
found on his person a great bundle of letters, and were 
leading him away to prison, but his companions, who were 
keeping guard round the inn, came in great numbers, and 
delivered him— -the villain ! ' 

'And what became of him?' 

' It isn't known ; he may be fled, or he may be concealed 
in Milan : they are people who have neither house nor home^ 
and yet find lodging and a place of refuge everywhere; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 283 

however, though the devil can and will help them, yet they 
may fall into the hands of justice when they least expect 
it; for when the pear is ripe it must fail. For the present, 
it is well known that the letters are in possession of gov- , 
ernment, and that the whole conspiracy is therein described; \ 
and they say that many people are implicated in it. This 
much is certain, that they have turned Milan upside down, 
and would have done much worse. It is said that the bakers 
are rogues: I know they are; but they ought to be hung 
in the course of justice. They say there is corn hidden; 
who doesn't know that? But it is the business of the gov- 
ernment to keep a good look-out to bring it to light, and 
to hang the monopolists in company with the bakers. And 
if government does nothing, the city ought to remonstrate; 
and if they don't listen the first time, remonstrate again; 
for by dint of appeals they will get what they want; but 
not adopt the villainous practice of furiously entering shops 
and warehouses to get booty.' 

Renzo's small meal had turned into poison. It seemed 
like an age before he could get out of, and away from, the 
inn and the village ; and a dozen times, at least, he had said 
to himself: 'Now I ma.j surely go.' But the fear of 
exciting suspicion, now increased beyond measure, and 
prevailing over every other thought, had kept him still 
nailed to his seat. In this perplexity, he thought the chat- 
terer must at last stop talking about him, and determined in 
his own mind to make his escape as soon as another sub- 
ject v/as started. 

' For this reason,' said one of the party, ' knowing how 
these things go, and that honest men fare but badly in such 
disturbances, I wouldn't let my curiosity conquer, and 
have, therefore, remained quietly at home.' 

* Neither would I move^ for the same reason,' said 
another. 

* I,' added a third, ' if I had happened by chance to be 
at Milan, I would have left any business whatever unfiji- 
ished, and have returned home as quickly as possible. I 
have a wife and children; and, besides, to tell the truth, I 
don't like such stirs.' 

At this moment the landlord, who had been eagerly 



284 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

listening with the rest, advanced towards the other end of 
the table to see what the stranger was doing. Renzo seized 
the opportunity, and beckoning to the host, asked for his 
account, settled it without dispute, though his purse was 
by this time very low; and without further delay, went 
directly to the door, passed the threshold, and taking care 
not to turn along the same road as that by which he had 
arrived, set off in the opposite direction, trusting to the 
guidance of Providence. 



CHAPTER XVII 

ONE wish is often enough to allow a man no peace; 
what, then, must two have been — one at war with 
the other? Our poor Renzo, as the reader knows, 
had had two such conflicting desires in his mind for sev- 
eral hours; the wish to make his escape, with the wish to 
rem.ain undiscovered; and the unfortunate words of the 
merchant had increased both one and the other to an ex- 
travagant degree. His adventure, then, had got abroad! 
There were means, then, employed, to seize him ! Who 
knew how many bailiffs were in the field to give him chase! 
or what orders had been forwarded to keep a watch in the 
villages, at the inn, on the roads ! He reflected, however, 
that, after all, there were but two bailiffs who knew him, 
and that his name was not written upon his forehead; but 
then, again, a hundred stories he had heard rushed into his 
mind, of fugitives caught and discovered in many strange 
ways, recognized by their walk, by their suspicious air, 
and other unthought of tokens: everything excited his 
alarm. Although, as he left Gorgonzola, the tolling of the 
Avemaria sounded in his ears, and the increasing dark- 
ness every moment diminished his danger, yet it was very 
unwillingly that he took the high road, proposing to follow 
the first by-lane which seemed likely to bring him to the 
point he was so anxious to reach. At first, he occasionally 
met a traveller; but so full was his imagination of direful 
apprehensions, that he had not courage to detain any one 
to inquire his way. — That innkeeper said six miles, — 
thought he. — If, by taking these foot-paths and by-lanes, I 
make them eight, or even ten, my legs, which have lasted 
me so far, will manage these too. I'm certainly not go- 
ing towards Milan^ so I must be going towards the Adda. 
Walk away, then-; sooner or later, I shall get there. The 
Adda has a good voice; and when once I'm near it, I 
shan't want anybody to point it out to me. If any boat 
is there. Til cross directly; if not, I'll wait till morning, 

285 



286 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in a field, or on a tree, like the sparrows : better on a tree 
than in prison, — 

Very soon, he saw a lane turning down to the left, and 
he pursued it. 

At this hour, if he had met with any one, he would no 
longer have hesitated to address him; but he heard not a 
footstep of living creature. He followed, therefore, the 
windings of the lane, indulging, the mean while, in such 
reflections as these: 

— I play the devil ! I murder all the nobility ! A packet 
of letters — I ! My companions keeping guard around me ! 
I'd give something to meet with that merchant face to 
face, on the other side of the Adda, (ah, when shall I get 
across that blessed ^dda?) I'd make him stand, and ask 
him, at my convenience, where he had picked up all this 
fine information. Just please to be informed, my dear 
sir, that the thing went so and so; and that all the mis- 
chief I played was helping Ferrer, as if he had been my 
brother: know, moreover, that those rascals who to hear 
you talk, one would think were my friends, because once 
I said a word or two, like a good Christian, wanted to 
play m.e a very rough trick; know, too, that while you 
were taking care of your own shop, I was endangering 
my ribs to save your signer, the superintendent of pro- 
visions—a man I never either knew or saw in my life. 
Wait and see if I ever stir again to help gentlemen . . . 
It is true we ought to do it for our soul's good: they are 
our neighbours, too. And that great bundle of letters, 
where all the conspiracy was revealed, and which you 
know for certain is in the hands of government; sure 
enough, I couldn't show it you here without the help of 
the devil. Would you have any curiosity to see this mighty 
packet? Look here ... A single letter! . . , Yes, my 
good sir, one letter only; and this letter, if you'd like to 
know, was written by a monk capable of instructing you 
in any point of doctrine you wish, — a monk, without doing 
you injustice, a single hair of whose beard is worth all 
yours put together; and this letter, I should like to tell you, 
is written, you see, to another monk, also a man . . . 
Just see, now, who my rascally friends are. Learn, if you 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 287 

please, how to talk another time, particularly when you 
are talking about a fellow-creature. — 

After a little time, however, these and similar reflections 
gave way to others; his present circumstances occupying 
the v/hole attention of our poor traveller. The dread of 
being pursued and discovered, which had so incessantly 
embittered his day's journey, now no longer gave him any 
uneasiness; but how many things made his nightly wander- 
ings sufficiently uncomfortable ! — darkness ; solitude ; in- 
creasing, and now painful, fatigue; a gentle, but steady 
and piercing breeze, which would be far from agreeable to 
a man still dressed in the same clothes which he had put 
on to go a short distance to a wedding, and quickly to 
return in triumph to his home, only a few steps off; and, 
what rendered everything doubly irksome, walking at a 
venture, in search of a place of rest and security. 

If he happened to pass through a village, he would walk 
as quietly and warily as possible, lest any of the doors 
should be still open; but he saw no further signs of re- 
maining wakefulness among the inhabitants than occasion- 
ally a glancing light in one of the windows. When on the 
road, away from every abode, he would pause, every now 
and then, and listen eagerly for the beloved murmur of the 
Adda; but in vain. He heard no sounds but the distant 
howling of dogs at some solitary dwelling, which floated 
through the air, at once mournful and threatening. On 
approaching any of these abodes, the howling was changed 
into an irritated, angry bark; and in passing before the 
door, he heard, and almost fancied he saw, the fierce 
creatures, with their heads at the crack of the door, reiter- 
ating their howls. This quicl^ly removed all temptation to 
knock and ask shelter, and probably his courage would have 
failed had there been no such obstacles in his v/ay. — Who's 
there? — thought he: — ^\vhat do you want at this hour? 
How did you come here? Tell who you are. Isn't there 
an inn where you can get a bed? This, at best, is what 
they will say to me, if I knock; even if it shouldn't be a 
cowardly sleeper, who would begin to shout out lustily, 
*Help ! Thieves ! ' I must have something ready for an 
answer; and what could I say? If anybody hears a noise 



288 ALBSSANDTtO MANZ0NI 

in the night, nothing enters their heads but robbers, villains, 
and rogues: they never think that an honest man may be 
benighted, not to say a gentleman in his carriage. — He 
determined, therefore, to reserve this plan as a last resource 
in case of necessity, and continued his way, still with the 
hope of at least discovering the Adda, if not of crossing 
it, that night, and not being obliged again to go in search 
of it in broad daylight. 

On, therefore, he went, till he reached a part where the 
country changed from cultivated fields into a heath of ferns 
and broom. This seemed, if not a sure indication, at least, 
a kind of argument that there was a river in the neigh- 
bourhood; and he advanced across the common, pursuing 
the path which traversed it. After walking a few paces, 
he stopped to listen; but in vain. The tediousness of the 
journey seemed to be increased by the wildness of the 
place; not a mulberry nor a vine was to be seen, nor any 
other signs of human culture, which, in the early part of 
his progress, seemed almost like half-companions to him. 
However, he still went forward, beguiling the timie, and 
endeavouring to drive away the images and apparitions which 
haunted his mind — the relics of a hundred wonderful stories 
he had heard — ^by repeating, as he went along, some of the 
prayers for the dead. 

By degrees, he entered among larger patches of brush- 
wood, wild plum-trees, dwarf oaks, and brambles. Con- 
tinuing his way, with more impatience than alacrity, he saw 
scattered occasionally throughout these patches, a solitary 
tree; and, still following the guidance of the footpath, per- 
ceived that he was entering a wood. He felt a kind of 
reluctance to proceed; but he conquered it, and unwillingly 
went forward. The further he went, the more this un- 
willingness increased, and the more did everything he saw 
vex and harass his imagination. The bushes he discerned 
before him assumed strange, marvellous, and uncouth forms ; 
the shadows of the tops of the trees alarmed him, as, sHghtly 
agitated by the breeze, the}^ quivered on his path, illuminated 
by the pale light of the moon; the very rustling of the 
withered leaves, as he trampled them under foot, had in it 
something hateful to his ear. His limbs felt a strange im- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 289 

pulse to run, and, at the same time, seemed scarcely able 
to support him. The cold night-breeze blew more chilly 
and sharply against his forehead and throat; he felt it 
piercing through his thin clothes to his skin, which shivered 
in the blast, and, penetrating more subtilely to his very 
bones, extinguishing the last remains of vigour. At one 
time, the weariness and undefined horror with which he had 
so long been struggling, had suddenly almost overwhelmed 
him. He nearly lost his self-government ; but terrified above 
all things at his own terror, he summ.oned up his former 
spirits, and by a great effort, forced them to assume their 
usual sway. Thus fortified for a moment, he stood still 
to deliberate, and resolved to leave the wood by the same 
path as he had traversed, to go straight to the last village 
he had passed, to return once more among mankind, and 
there to seek shelter, even at the inn. While he thus stood, 
the rustling of his feet among the leaves hushed, and, per- 
fectly silent around him, a noise reached his ear, a murmur 
— a murmur of running water. He listens; assures himself; 
and exclaims, ' It's the Adda ! ' It was like the restoration 
of a friend, of a brother, of a deliverer. His weariness 
almost disappeared, his pulse again beat; he felt his blood 
circulate freely and warmly through all his veins; his con- 
fidence increased, the gloominess and oppression of his mind, 
in great part, vanished away; and he no longer hesitated to 
penetrate farther into the wood, towards the friendly murmur. 
At last he reached the extremity of the flat, at the edge 
of a steep declivity; and, peeping through the bushes that 
everywhere covered its surface, he discerned, at the bottom, 
the glittering of the running water. Then, raising his eyes, 
he surveyed the extensive plain on the opposite side, scattered 
with villages; beyond this the hills, and on one of these a 
large, whitish tract, in which he fancied he could distinguish 
a city — Bergamo, undoubtedly. He descended the steep a 
little way, separating and pushing aside the brushwood with 
Bis hands and arms, and looked down, to see if there were 
any boat moving on the water, or to listen if he could hear 
the splashing of oars; but he saw and heard nothing. Had 
it been any thing less than the Adda, Renzo would have 
descended at once and attempted to ford it; but this, he 

HC IO--V0I.2I 



290 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

well knew, in such a river, was not a matter of very great 
facility. 

He therefore stood to consult with himself what were best 
to be done. To clamber up into a tree, and there await the 
dawn of morning, in the chill night-breeze, in a frosty air, 
and in his present dress, was more than enough to benumb 
him ; to pace up and down, for constant exercise, all that time, 
besides that it would have been a very inefficacious defence 
against the severity of the temperature, was also asking too 
much of those unfortunate limbs which had already done 
much more than their duty. Suddenly he remembered having 
seen a cascinotto in one of the fields adjoining the unculti- 
vated down. Thus the peasants of the Milanese plain desig- 
nate certain little cottages, thatched with straw, constructed 
of the trunks and branches of trees, fastened tog-ether and 
filled up with mud, where they are in the habit of depositing 
their harvest during the summer season, repairing thither at 
night to protect it: during the rest of the year they are 
usually unoccupied. He quickly fixed upon this as his rest- 
ing-place for the night; and again setting off on his way, 
re-passed the wood, the tract of bushes, and the heath; and 
entering upon the cultivated land, he quickly espied the 
cascinotto, and v/ent towards it. A worm-eaten and tumble- 
down door, without lock or chain, blocked up the entrance; 
Renzo drew it towards him, and on entering, saw a hurdle, 
intended to serve the purpose of a hammock, suspended in 
the air, and supported by bands formed of little tv/igs; he 
did not, however, make use of it; but seeing a little straw 
lying on the ground, thought that, even there, sleep would 
be very welcome. 

Before stretching his weary frame on the bed Providence 
had prepared for him, he knelt down to offer up his thanks 
for this blessing, and for all the assistance he had received 
that terrible day. He then repeated his usual prayers; and, 
having finished them, begged pardon of God for having 
omitted them the evening before, and gone to rest, as he said, 
like a dog, or even worse. — And for this reason, — added he to 
himself, resting his hands upon the straw, and, from kneel- 
ing, changing his posture to that of lying, — for this reason 
I was awaked by such agreeable visitors in the morning. — ^ 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 291 

He then gathered up all the straw that was scattered around, 
and spread it over him, so as to make the best covering 
he could to secure himself from the cold, which, even there, 
under shelter, made itself sufficiently felt; and crouching 
beneath it, he tried to get a little sleep, thinking that he had 
purchased it, that day, more dearly than usual. 

Scarcely, however, had he closed his eyes, before visions 
began to throng his memory, or his fancy (I cannot under- 
take to indicate the exact spot) — visions so crowded, so in- 
cessant, that they quickly banished every idea of sleep. The 
merchant, the notary, the bailiffs, the sword-cutler, the land- 
lord, Ferrer, the superintendent, the party at the inn, the 
crowds in the streets; then Don Abbondio, then Don Rod- 
rigo : and, among so many, there were none that did not 
bring some sad remembrances of misfortune or aversion. 

There were but three images that presented themselves to 
his mind, divested of every bitter recollection, clear of every 
suspicion, pleasing in every aspect; and two, principally — 
certainly very dissimilar, but closely connected in the heart 
of the youth, — tlie black-locked Lucia, and the white-bearded 
Father Cristoforo. Yet the consolation he felt in contem- 
plating even these objects, was anything but unmixed and 
tranquil. In picturing to himself the good friar, he felt more 
keenly than ever the disgrace of his faults, his shameful in- 
temperance, and his neglect of the kind Father's paternal ad- 
vice ; and in contemplating the image of Lucia ! we will not 
attempt to describe what he felt; the reader knows the cir- 
cumstances, and m.ust imagine it him.self. Neither did he 
forget the poor Agnese ; Agnese, who had chosen him for her 
son-in-law, who had considered him almost as one with her 
only daughter, and before receiving from him the title of 
jnother, had assumed the language and affection of one, and 
demonstrated parental solicitude for him by her actions. But 
it was an additional grief to him, and not the least bitter one, 
that exactly on account of these affectionate and benevolent 
intentions, the poor woman was now homeless, and almost 
houseless, uncertain of the future, and reaping sorrows and 
troubles from those very circumstances, v/hich he had hoped 
would be the joy and comfort of her declining years. What 
a night, poor Renzo ! which was to have been the fifth of his 



292 ALE#SAISn>BO MANZONI 

nuptials ! What a room ! Wliat a matrimonial couch ! And 
after such a day! And to precede such a morrow, such a 
swicession of days ! — What God wills — replied he, to the 
thoughts which most tormented him; — What God wills. He 
kasows what He do^ ! it is for our good too. Let it be as a 
penance for my sins. Lucia is so good ! God, surely, will not 
kt her suffer for long — for very long ! — 

Harassed by such thoughts as these, despairing of obtaining 
any sleep, and the piercing cold becoming more and more in- 
sufferable, so that from time to time his whole frame shook, 
and his teeth chattered in spite of himself, Renzo longed for 
the approach of day, and impatiently measured the slow 
progress of the hours. I say, measured, because every half- 
hour he heard resounding through the deep silence, the 
strokes of a large clock, probably that of Trezzo. The first 
time, the sound reached his ear so unexpectedly, without his 
having the least idea whence it came, it brought with it some- 
thing solemn and mysterious to his mind; the feeling of a 
warning uttered in an unknown voice, by some invisible 
person. 

When, at last, the clock had tolled eleven,^ — the hour Renzo 
had determined to get up, — he rose, half benumbed with the 
cold, and falling upon his knees, repeated his matin prayers 
with more than ordinary devotion; then, standing up, he 
stretched his limbs, and shook his body, as if to settle and 
unite his members, which seemed almost dissevered from each 
other, breathed upon his hands and rubbed them together, and 
then opened the door of the cascinotto, first taking the pre« 
caution to look warily about him, perchance any one might 
be there. No one being visible, he cast his eye raund to 
discover the path he had followed the preceding evening, and 
quickly recognizing it, much clearer and more distinct than 
his memory pictured it, he set off in that direction. 

The sky announced a beautiful day: the pale and rayless 
moon was yet visible near the horizon, in the spacious field 
of azure, still softened by a tinge of morning grey, which 

lit must be borne in mind by the reader, that, according to Italian com- 
putation of time, the first hour of the day is seven o'clock in the morriing — ■ 
two o'clock answerable to eight with u% and so on, till seven o'clock in the 
evening becomes one again. This arrangement would make eleven o'olocl^ 
in the text, the same as five o'clock in the morning in England. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 293 

shaded gradually towards the east, into a rosy and primrose 
hue. Still nearer the horizon, a few irregular clouds 
stretched out, in lengthened waves, rather azure than grey, 
their lower sides edged with almost a streak of flame, be- 
coming every moment more vivid and sharply defined ; while, 
higher up, light and fleecy clouds, m.ingling with each other, 
and of a thousand nameless hues, floated on the surface of 
the placid heavens; a true Lom.bard sky, so beautiful when 
it is beautiful — so brilliant, so calm. Had Renzo been here 
to enjoy himself, he would certainly have looked upwards, 
and admired a dawn so different to what he had been ac- 
customed to see among his native mountains; but his eyes 
were bent to the ground, and he walked on rapidly, both to 
regain a little warmth, and to reach the river as quickly as 
he could. He retraced the fields, the grove, the bushes; 
traversed the wood, with a kind of compassion, as he looked 
around and remembered the horror he had felt there a few 
hours before; reached the edge of the precipitous bank, and 
looking down through the crags and bushes, discovered a 
fisherman's bark slowly making its way against the stream, 
close by the shore. He hastily descended the shortest way 
through the bushes, stood upon the bank, and gently called to 
the fisherman; and with the intention of appearing to ask 
a favour of little importance, but, without being aware of it, 
in a half-supplicatory manner, beckoned to him to approach. 
The fisherman cast a glance along the shore, looked carefully 
both up and down the river, and then turning the prow 
towards Renzo, approached the side. Renzo, who stood at 
the very edge of the stream, almost with one foot in the water, 
seized the prow as it drew near, and jumped into the boat. 

* Be good enough to take me across to the other side, and 
I'll pay you for it,' said he. The fisherman had already 
guessed his object, and had turned the prow to the opposite 
bank. Renzo, seeing another oar at the bottom of the boat, 
stooped dov/n and took it up. 

' Softly, softly,' said the owner ; but on seeing how dex- 
terously the youth laid hold of the implement, and prepared 
to handle it, * Aha ! ' added he, ' you know your business.' 

* A little,' replied Renzo ; and he began to row with a 
vigour and skill beyond those of an amateur. While thus 



294 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

exerting himself, he cast an occasional dark glance at the 
shore he had just left, and then a look of anxiety to the one 
they v/ere approaching. He was annoyed at having to go at 
all down the stream; but the current here was too rapid to 
cut directly across it; so that the bark, partly cleaving and 
partly following the course of the water, was obliged to take 
a diagonal direction. As it happens in all dark and intricate 
undertakings, that difficulties present themselves to the mind 
at first only in general, but in the execution of the enterprise 
are more minutely observable; so, now that the Adda was 
forded, so to say, Renzo felt a good deal of disquietude at not 
knowing for certain whether here it was the boundary of the 
two states, or whether, when this obstacle was overcome, 
there might not be others still to surmount. Addressing the 
fisherman, therefore, and nodding v\^ith his head towards the 
whitish spot which he had noticed the night before, and 
which now appeared much more distinct, ' Is that Bergamo ? ' 
said he — ' that town ? ' 

' The city of Bergamo,' replied the fisherman. 

*And that shore, there, does it belong to Bergamo?' 

* The territory of St. Mark.' 

' Long live St. Mark ! ' exclaimed Renzo. 

The fisherman made no reply. 

They reached, at length, the opposite shore ; Renzo jumped 
out upon it, and, thanking God in his heart, expressed his 
gratitude in words to the boatman; then putting his hand in 
his pocket, he drew out thence a herlinga — which, considering 
his circumstances, was no little loss to him — and handed it to 
the worthy man, who, giving another glance at the Milanese 
shore, and along the river in either direction, stretched out 
his hand, and received the gift. He put it into his pocket, 
and after compressing his lips, at the samic time laying his 
forefinger across them, with a significant expression of coun- 
tenance, said, 'A good journey to you ! ' and turned back. 

That the reader may not be surprised at the prompt, yet 
cautious, civility of this man towards a perfect stranger, 
it will be necessary to inform him that, frequently requested 
to perform a similar service to smugglers and banditti, he was 
accustomed to do so, not so much for the sake of the trifling 
and uncertain gains which he might thereby obtain, as to 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 295 

avoid making himself enemies among these classes. He af- 
forded this assistance whenever he could assure himself of 
not being discovered by the customs-house oSicers, bailiffs, or 
spies. Thus, v/ithout particularly favouring one party more 
than another, he endeavoured to satisfy all, with that im- 
partiality usually exercised by those who are eomipelled to 
deal with a certain set of people, while liable to give account 
to another. 

Renzo paused a m.oment on the bank, to contemplate the 
opposite shore — -that ground which just before had almost 
burnt beneath his feet. — Ah I I am really out of it ! — was his 
first thought. — Hateful country that you are! — was his sec- 
ond, bidding it farewell. But the third recurred to those 
whom he had left there. Then he crossed his arms on his 
breast, heaved a sigh, bent his eyes on the water which flowed 
at his feet, and thought, — It has passed tmder the bridge ! — 
Thus that at Lecco was generally called among his fellow- 
countrymen, by way of eminence. — Ah! hateful world! 
Enough: whatever God wills. — 

He turned his back upon these miournful objects, and went 
forward, taking, for a mark, the white tract on the side of the 
hill, tmtil he met with some one to give him more particular 
directions in hus way. It was amusing to see with what care- 
lessness and disembarrassment he nov/ accosted travellers, 
and how boldly he pronounced the name of the village where 
his cousin resided, Vv^ithout hesitation or disguise. From the 
first pers.on v/ho directed him, he learnt that he had yet nine 
miles to travel. 

His journey was not very blithesome. Independent of his 
own troubles, his eyes rested every moment on pitiable ob- 
jects, v/hich told him that he would find in the country he was 
entering the poverty he had left in his own. All along the 
way, but more particularly in the villages and large towns, 
he saw beggars hastening along, m.aidicants rather from cir- 
cumstances than profession, who revealed their misery more 
in their countenances than their clothing: peasants, moun- 
taineers, artisans, entire families, and a mingled murmur of 
entreaties, disputes, and infants' cries. Besides the mournful 
pity that it avv^oke in Renzc's mind, this sight also aroused 
him to the remembrance of his own circumstances. 



296 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

— Who knows, — thought he, as he went along, — if I shall 
find anything to do? if there is any work now to be got, as 
there used to be? Well; Bortolo is kindly inclined to me; 
he is a good fellow; he has made some money, and has in- 
vited me very often; he, surely, won't forsake me. Besides, 
Providence has helped me hitherto, and will help me, I hope, 
for the future. — 

In the mean while, his appetite, already considerably 
sharpened, became, as he went on his way, more and more 
craving; and though he felt that he could manage very well 
to the end of his journey, which was now only about two 
miles, without great inconvenience, yet he reflected that it 
would not be exactly the thing to make his appearance before 
his cousin like a beggar, and address him with the salutation, 
* Give me something to eat ;' so drawing all his riches from 
his pocket, he counted them over on the palm of his hand, to 
ascertain the amount. It was an amount that required little 
calculation, yet still there was more than enough to make 
a small meal; he, therefore, entered an inn to get a little 
refreshment; and, on paying the account, found that he had 
still a few pence remaining. 

Just outside, lying in the street, and so close to the door 
that he would have fallen over them had he not been look- 
ing about him, Renzo saw two women, one rather elderly, 
and the other a younger person, with an infant at her breast, 
which, after vainly endeavouring to satisfy its hunger, was 
crying bitterly; they were all three as pale as death; and 
standing by them was a man, in whose face and limbs there 
might still be discerned tokens of former robustness, though 
now broken and almost destroyed by long poverty. The three 
beggars stretched out their hands to Renzo, as he left the inn 
with a free step and reinvigorated air, but none of them 
spoke; what more could language have expressed? 

* There's a God-send for you ! ' said Renzo, as he hastily 
thrust his hand into his pocket, and, taking out his last pence, 
put them into the hand that was nearest to him, and went on 
his way. 

The refreshment, and this good work together (since we 
are made of both soul and body), had gladdened and cheered 
all his thoughts. Certain it is that he felt more confidence 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 297 

for the future from having thus deprived himself of his last 
penny, than if he had found ten such. For if Providence had 
kept in reserve, for the support of three wretched beggars, 
almost fainting on the road, the last farthing of a stranger, 
himself a fugitive, far from his own home, and uncertain how 
to get a living, could he think that that Providence would 
leave in destitution him whom He had made use of for this 
purpose, and to whom He had given so vivid, so effective, so 
self-abandoning an inclination? Such was, in general, the 
feeling of the youth, though, probably, not so clearly defined 
as that which we have expressed in words. During the re- 
mainder of his walk, as his mind recurred to the different 
circumstances and contingencies which had hitherto appeared 
the most dark and perplexing, all seemed to brighten. The 
famine and poverty must come to an end, for there was a 
harvest every year: in the mean time, he had his cousin 
Bortolo, and his own abilities ; and, as a help towards his sup- 
port, a little store of money at home, which he could easily 
send for. With this assistance, at the worst, he could live 
from day to day as economically as possible, till better times. 
— Then, when good times have come at last, — continued 
Renzo, in his fanciful dreams, — the demand for work will be 
renewed; masters will strive who shall get Milanese weav- 
ers, because they know their trade best ; the Milanese weavers 
will bold their heads high; they who want clever workmen 
must pay for them; we shall make something to live upon 
and still have some to spare; we can then furnish a cottage, 
and write to the wom.en to come. And besides, why wait so 
long ? Shouldn't we have lived upon my little store at home, 
all this winter? So we can live here. There are curates 
everywhere. Those two dear women might come now, and 
we could keep house together. Oh, what a pleasure, to go 
walking all together on this very road! to go as far as the 
Adda, in a cart, and have a pic-nic on the shore ; yes, just on 
the shore ! and I'd show them the place where I embarked, 
the thorny path I came down, and the spot where I stood to 
look if there was a boat ! — 

At length he reached his cousin's village; and, just at the 
entrance, even before he set foot in it, distinguished a house 
considerably higher than tiae rest, with several rows of l^ng 



298 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

windows, one above another, and separated by a much smaller 
space than the divisions betv/een the different stories re- 
quired : he at once recognized a silk-mill ; and going in, asked, 
in a loud voice, so as to be heard amidst the noise of the 
running water and the machinery, if Bortolo Castagneri lived 
th^re. 

* The Signor Bortolo ! He's there.' 

— The Signor! that's a good sign, — thought Renzo; and, 
seeing his cousin, he ran tov\^ards him. Bortolo turned round, 
recognized his relation, as he exclaimed, ' Here I am, myself,' 
and received him with an ' Oh ! ' of surprise, as they mutually 
threw their arms round each other's neck. After the first 
welcome, Bortolo took his cousin into another room, apart 
from the noise of the m.achinery and the eyes of the curious, 
and greeted him with, ' I'm very glad to see you ; but you're a 
pretty fellow. I've invited you so often, and you never would 
come; and now you arrive in rather a troubled time.' 

' Since you will have me tell you, I've not come with my 
own good will,' said Renzo; and then, as briefly as possible, 
and not without some emotion, he related his mournful story. 

' That's quite another thing,' said Bortolo. ' Oh, poor 
Renzo ! But you've depended upon me ; and I'll not forsake 
you. Certainly, there's no great demand for workmen just 
now ; indeed, it's all we can do not to turn off those we have, 
and give up the business ; but my master likes me, and he has 
got some money. A.nd, to tell you the truth, without boasting, 
he mostly owes it to me; he has the capital, and I give my 
abilities, such as they are. I'm the head workman, you know ; 
and, besides, between you and me, I'm quite his factotum. 
Poor Lucia Mondella ! I remember her as it were but yester- 
day : a good girl she was ! always the best-behaved in church ; 
and whenever one passed her cottage ... I see that cottage 
in my mind's eye, outside the village, with a fine fig-tree 
peeping over the wall . . .' 

' No, no ; don't let us talk about it.' 

* I was only going to say, that whenever one passed that 
cottage, there was the reel always going, going, going. And 
that Don Rodrigo ! even in my time he was inclined that way , 
but now he's playing the devil outright, from what I hear, so 
long as God leaves him to take his own course. Well, as J 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 299 

was saying, here, too, we are suffering a little from the 
famine . . . Apropos, hov/ are you for appetite ? ' 

* I got something to eat, a little while ago, on the road/ 
' And how are you for money ? ' 

Renzo held out one of his hands, and putting it to his 
mouth, gently puffed upon it. 

' Never mind,' said Bortolo : ' I've plenty ; pluck up heart, 
for I hope things will soon change, please God ; and then you 
can repay m.e, and lay up also a little for }^urself.' 

' I've a trifling sum at hom^e, and will send for it.' 

'Very well; and, in the mean time, 5^ou may depend upon 
me. God has given me wealth, that I m.ight give to others; 
and whom should I serve so soon as my own relations and 
f rienda ? ' 

' I said I should be provided for ! ' exclaimed Renzo, affec- 
tionately pressing his good cousin's hand. 

* Then,' rejoined his companion, ' they've had a regular up- 
roar at Milan ! I think they're all a little mad. The rumour 
had already reached here; but I want you to tell m.e things 
a little more particularly. Ah ! we've plenty to talk about. 
Here, however, you see, v/e go about it more quietly, and do 
things with rather more prudence. The city purchased two 
thousand loads of corn, from a merchant who lives at Venice: 
the corn camic from Turkey; but when life depends upon it, 
such things are not looked into very narrowly. See now what 
this occasioned : the governors of Verona and Brescia stopped 
up the passes, and said, ' No corn shall pass this way.' What 
did the Bergam.ascans do, think you ? They despatched a man 
to Venice, v/ho knew how to talk. The messenger went off in 
haste, presented himself to the Doge, and asked him what 
was the meaning of such a trick. And such a speech he 
made ! they say, fit to be printed. What a thing it is to have 
a man who knows what to say ! An order was immediately 
issued for the free transit of corn, requiring the governors 
not only to let it pass, but to assist in forwarding it ; and now 
it is on its way. There is provision also for the surrounding 
country. Another worthy man gave the senate to understand 
that the people in the country were starving; and they have 
ordered them four thousand bushels of millet. This helps, 
you know, to make bread. And then I needn't say, that if 



300 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

there isn't bread for us, we will eat meat. God has given me 
wealth, as I told you. Now, then, I'll take you to my master; 
I've often mentioned you to him, and I know he'll welcome 
you. He's a Bergamascan of the old sort, and a kind-hearted 
man. Certainly, he doesn't expect you just now ; but when he 
hears your history . . . And besides, he knows how to value 
good workmen; for the famine must come to an end, and 
business will go on. But, first of all, I must warn you of one 
thing. Do you know what they call us Milanese, in this 
country ? * 

' No ; what is it ? ' 

* They call us blockheads.' 

* That's not a very nice name.' 

* So it is : whoever is born in the territory of Milan, and 
would make a living in that of Bergamo, must be content 
to bear it patiently. It is as common, among these people, to 
give the name of " blockhead " to a Milanese, as " your illus- 
trious lordship " to a cavalier.' 

* They only say so, I fancy, to those who will put up 
with it.' 

* My dear fellow, if you are not disposed continually to 
brook the title, don't reckon that you can live here. You 
would be obliged always to have a knife in your hand; and 
when you have killed, we will suppose, two, three, or four, 
of your neighbours, you'd meet with somebody who would 
kill you; and what a nice prospect, to have to appear before 
God's tribunal with three or four murders on your head ! ' 

* And a Milanese who has a little . . .' here he tapped his 
forehead with his forefinger, as he had before done at the 
sign of the Full Moon. *I mean, one who understands his 
business ? ' 

* It's all the same ; he, too, would be a blockhead. Do you 
know what my master says when he's talking of me to his 
friends ? " Heaven has sent me this blockhead, to conduct 
my business; if it were not for this blockhead, I should do 
very badly.'^' It's the custom to say so.' 

* It's a very foolish custom, especially considering what we 
do; for who was it, in fact, that brought the art here, and 
now carries it on, but us? Is it possible there's no help 
for it?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 301 

* Not hitherto ; there may be, in the course of time, among 
the young people who are growing up ; but in this generation 
there is no remedy; they've acquired the habit, and won't 
leave it o6f. After all, what is it? It's nothing to the tricks 
they've played upon you, and that most of our precit)tis 
fellow-countrymen would still play upon you/ 

* Well, that's true: if there's no other evil . . .' 

* Now that you are persuaded of this, all will go well. 
Come, let us go to my master, and be of good heart/ 

Everything, in fact, did go well, and so exactly in accord- 
amce with Bortolo's promises, that it is needless to give any 
particular description. And it was truly an ordering of 
Providence; for we shall soon see how little dependence was 
to be placed upon the small savings Renzo had left at home. 




CHAPTER X-\7III 

|HAT same day, the 13th of November, an express 
arrived to the Signer Podesta of Lecco, and pre- 
sented him with a despatch from the Signor the 
high sheriff, containing an order to make every possible 
strict investigation, to ascertain whether a certain young 
man, bearing the name of Lorenzo Tram^aglino, silk-weaver, 
who had escaped from the hands prcsdicti egregii domi-ni 
capita'nei, had returned, palam vel clam, to his own country, 
ignofum the exact village, veriim in territorio Leuci: quod 
si compertum fuerit sic esse, the Signor Podesta must en- 
deavour, quanta maxima diligentia fieri poterit, to get him 
into his hands ; and having sufficiently secured him, videlicet, 
with strong handcuffs, (seeing that the insufficiency of 
sm.aller manacles for ^e afore-mentioned person has been 
proved), must cause him to be conducted to prison, and 
there detained under strong custody, until he be consigned 
to the officer, who shall be sent to take him: and in case 
either of success, or non-suc<^ess, accedafis ad domzan prce- 
dicti Laurentil Tramalini; et facta debiia diligentia, quid quid 
ad reW/ repertum fuerit auferatis; et informationes de illius 
prava qualitdte, vita, et complicihus, sumatis; and of all his 
sayings and doings, v/hat is found and not found, what is 
taken and not taken, diligenter referatis. After humanely 
assuring himself that the object of inquiry had not re- 
turned home^ the Signor Podestci summoned the village con- 
stable, and under his direction, proceeded, with a large 
retinue of notaries and bailiffs, to the above-mentioned house. 
The door was locked, and either no one had the key, or 
he was not to be found. They, therefore, forced the focks 
with all due and praiseworthy zeal, which is equivalent to 
saying that they proceeded as if taking a city by assault. 
The report of this expedition immediately spread in the 
neighbourhood, and reached the ears of Father Cristo- 
foro, who, no less astonished than grieved, sought for some 
information as to the cause of so unexpected an e.Ytnt 



I PPvOMESSI SPOSI 303 

fTom everybody he met with; he could only, however, 
gather airy conjectures, and contradictory reports : and, at 
last, therefore, wrote to Father Bonaventura, from whom 
he imagined he should be able to acquire some more precise 
information. In the mean while, Renzo's relations and 
friends were sum.moned to depose all that they knew about 
his depraved habits: to bear the name of Tramaglino became 
a misfortune, a disgrace, a crime; and the village was quite 
in a commotion. By degrees, it became knov/n that Renzo 
had escaped from the hands of justice during the disturb- 
ance at Milan, and had not since been seen. It was whispered 
about that he had been guilty of som.e high crime and mis- 
demeanour, but what it was no one could tell, or they 
told it in a hundred different ways. The more heinous the 
offence with which he was charged, the less was it believed 
in the village, where Renzo v/as universally known as an 
honest, respectable youth; and many conjectured and spread 
the report, that it was merely a machination set on foot by 
the powerful Don Rodrigo, to bring about the ruin of his 
unfortunate rival. So true is it that, judging only by 
induction, and without the necessary knowledge of facts, 
even the greatest villains are sometimes wrongfully accused. 
But we, who have the facts in our possession, as the say- 
ing is, can affirm, that, if Don Rodrigo had had no share 
in Renzo's misfortunes, yet that he rejoiced in them 
as if they had been his ov/n work, and triumphed over them 
among his confidants, especially with Count Attilio. This 
friend, according to his first intention, should have been, 
by this time, at Milan; but, on the first announcement of 
the disturbances that had arisen there, and of the rabble 
whom he might encounter in a far different mood than 
tamely to submit to a beating, he thought it expedient to 
postpone his journey until he received better accounts; and 
the m.ore so, because having offended many, he had good 
reason to fear that some who had remained passive only 
from impotency, might now be encouraged by circumstances, 
and judge it a favourable opportunity for taking their re- 
venge. The journey, however, was not long delayed; the 
order despatched from Milan for the execution against 
Renzo, had already given some indication that things had 



304 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

returned to their ordinary course, and the positive notices 
which followed quick upon it, confirmed the truth of these 
appearances. Count Attilio set off immediately, enjoining 
his cousin to persist in his undertaking, and bring it to an 
issue, and promising, on his part, that he would use every 
means to rid him of the friar, to whom the fortunate ac- 
cident of his cousin's beggarly rival would be a wonderful 
blow. Scarcely had Attilio gone, when Griso arrived safe 
and sound from Monza, and related to his master what he 
had been able to gather: — that Lucia had found refuge in 
such a monastery, imder the protection of the Signora So- 
and-so; that she was concealed there as if she were a nun 
herself, never setting foot outside the threshold, and assist- 
ing at the services of the church behind a little grated win- 
dow : an arrangement which was unsatisfactory to many who, 
having heard some mention of her adventures, and great 
reports of her beauty, were anxious, for once, to see what 
she was like. 

This account inspired Don Rodrigo with every evil pas- 
sion, or, to speak more truly, rendered still more ungovern- 
able those with which he was already possessed. So many 
circumstances favourable to his design, had only further 
inflamed that mixture of punctilio, rage, and infamous desire 
of which his passion was composed. Renzo absent, banished, 
outlawed — so that any proceedings against him became law- 
ful; and even that his betrothed bride might be considered, 
in a measure, as the property of a rebel : the only man in the 
world who would and could interest himself for her, and 
make a stir that would be noticed in head-quarters, and at 
a distance — the enraged friar — would himself, probably, be 
soon incapable of acting for her. Yet here was a new 
impediment, which not only outweighed all these ad- 
vantages, but rendered them, it might be said, un- 
availing. A monastery at Monza, even had there not been 
a princess in the way, was a bone too hard even for the teeth 
of a Rodrigo; and wander in his fancy round this retreat 
as he would, he could devise no way or means of assaulting 
it, either by force or fraud. He was almost resolved to 
give up the enterprise, to go to Milan by a circuitous route, 
so as to avoid passing through Monza, and there to plunge 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 305 

himself into the society of his friends, and their recreations, 
so as to drown, in thoughts of gaiety, the one idea which 
had now become so tormenting. But, but, but, his friends !— 
softly a little with these friends. Instead of diverting his 
mind, he might reasonably expect to find in their company 
an incessant renewal and memento of his vexation: for 
Attilio would certainly have published the affair, and put 
them all in expectation. Everybody would make inquiries 
about the mountain girl, and he must give some answer. He 
had wished, he had tried; and how had he succeeded? He 
had engaged in an undertaking — rather an unworthy one, 
certainly; but what of that? One cannot always regulate 
one's caprices ; the point is to satisfy them ; and how had he 
com.e off in the enterprise? How? Put down by a peasant, 
and a friar ! Uh ! and when an unexpected turn of good 
fortune had rid him of one, and a skilful friend of the other^ 
without any trouble on the part of the principal person 
concerned, he, like a fool, knew not how to profit by the 
juncture, and basely withdrew from the undertaking! 
It would be enough to make him never again dare to hold 
up his head among men of spirit, or compel him always to 
keep his hand on his sword. And then, again, how could 
he ever return to, how ever remain in, that village, and that 
country, where, let alone the incessant and bitter remem- 
brances of his passion, he should always bear about with him 
the disgrace of its failure? where public hatred would 
have increased, while his reputation for power and su- 
periority would have proportionably diminished? where he 
might read in the face of every ragamuffin, even through 
the veil of profound reverences, a galling * You've been 
gulled, and I'm glad of it ! ' The path of iniquity, as our 
manuscript here remarks, is broad, but that does not mean 
that it is easy; it has its stumbling-blocks, and its thorns, 
and its course is tedious and wearisome, though it be a 
downward course. 

In this perplexity, unwilling either to give up his pur- 
pose, to go back, or to stop, and unable by himself to go 
forward, a plan occurred to Don Rodrigo's mind, by which 
he hoped to effect his design. This was to take as a part- 
ner and assistant in his enterprise, one whose hands could 



306 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

often reach beyond the viezvs of others — a man at once, and 
devil, to whom the difficulty of an undertaking was fre- 
quently an incentive to engage in it. But this course also 
had its inconveniences and its dangers; the more pressing, 
the less they could be calculated upon beforehand; since it 
was impossible to foresee where one might be led, when once 
embarked in an affair with this man: a powerful auxiliary, 
certainly, but a not less absolute and dangerous guide. 

These thoughts kept Don Rodrigo for several days in 
a state of worse than tedious perplexity. In the mean 
while, a letter arrived from his cousin, informing him that 
the plot against the friar was going on very well. Following 
close upon the lightning bursts forth the thunderclap; one 
fine morning, Don Rodrigo heard that Father Cristoforo had 
left the convent at Pescarenico. This success, so prompt, 
and so complete, together with Attilio's letter, encouraging 
him onward, and threatening him with intolerable ridicule 
if he withdrew, inclined Don Rodrigo still more to hazard 
every thing rather than give up; but that which finally de- 
cided him, was the unexpected news that Agnese had re- 
turned home, thus removing one obstacle from around Lucia. 
We will relate how these two circumstances were brought 
about, beginning with the last. 

The two unfortunate women were scarcely settled in 
their retreat, when the report of the disturbances in Milan 
spread rapidly over Monza, and, consequently, through the 
monastery; and following the grand news, came an infinite 
succession of particulars, which multiplied and varied every 
moment. The portress, situated just between the street and 
the monastery, was the channel of information both from 
within and from without^ and, eagerly receiving these re- 
ports, retailed them at will to her guests. * Two, six, eight, 
four, seven, had been imprisoned: they would hang them, 
some before the bakehouse of the Crutches, some at the end 
of the street where the Superintendent of provisions lived 
. . . Ay, ay, just listen, now ! — one of them escaped — a man 
somewhere from Lecco, or thereabouts. I don't know the 
name; but some one will be passing who will be able to 
tell me, to see if you know him.' 

This announcement^ together with the circumstance that 



I PROMESSI SPOSI S07 

Henzo would just have arrived at Milan on the fatal day, 
occasioned a good deal of disquietude to the women, and 
especially to Lucia; but v^^hat must it have been, when the 
portress came to tell them — * It is a man from your very village 
who has escaped being hung — a silk-weaver, of the name of 
Tramaglino ; do you know him ? ' 

Lucia, who was sitting hemming some needlework, im- 
mediately let it fall from her hands; she became extremely 
pale, and changed countenance so much, that the portress 
would certainly have observed it, had she been nearer to her. 
Fortunately, however, she v/as standing at the door with 
Agnese, who, though much disturbed, yet not to such a de- 
gree as her daughter, preserved a calm countenance, and 
forced herself to reply, that in a little village, everybody 
knew everybody; that she was acquainted with him, and 
could scarcely bring herself to believe that anything of the 
kind had happened to him, he v/as so peaceable a youth. 
She then asked if it was known for certain that he had 
es'caped, and whither. 

* Every one says he has escaped, where to, they cannot 
say; it may be they will catch him again, or it may be he is 
m safety; but if they do get hold of him, your peaceable 
youth . . .' 

Fortunately, at this juncture, the portress was called away, 
and left them — ^the reader may imagine in what state of 
^nd. For more than a day v/ere the poor woman and 
her afflicted daughter obliged to remain in this painful sus- 
|>ense, imagining the causes, ways, and consequences, of 
this unhappy event, and commenting, in their own minds, or 
in a low voice with each other, on the terrible words their 
informer had left unfinished. 

At length, one Thursday, a man arrived at the monastery 
in search of Agnese. It was a fishmonger, of Pescarenico, 
going to Milan, as usual, to dispose of his fish; and the 
good Father Cristoforo had requested him, in passing 
through Monza, to call in at the monastery, to greet the 
v/omen in his name, to tell them all he knew about this 
sad affair of Renzo's, to beseech them to have patience, and 
put their trust in God; and to assure them that he would 
certainly not forget them, but would watch his opportunity 



308 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

for rendering them assistance; and, in the mean time, would 
not fail to send them all the news he could collect every week, 
either by this means, or a similar one. The messenger 
could tell nothing new or certain about Renzo, except ol 
the execution put into his house, and the search that was be- 
ing made for him; but, at the same time, that this had been 
hitherto in vain, and that it was known for certain that he 
had reached the territory of Bergamo. Such a certainty, 
it is unnecessary to say, was a balm to poor Lucia's wounded 
heart: from that time her tears flowed more freely and 
calmly ; she felt more comforted in her secret bursts of feel- 
ing with her mother; and expressions of thankfulness be- 
gan to be mingled with her prayers, 

Gertrude frequently invited her into her private apart- 
ment, and sometimes detained her there a long while, feel- 
ing a pleasure in the ingenuousness and gentleness of the 
poor girl, and in hearing the thanks and blessings she poured 
upon her benefactress. She even related to her, in con- 
fidence, a part (the blameless part) of her history, and of 
what she had suffered, that she might come there to suffer, 
till Lucia's first suspicious astonishment gradually changed 
to compassion. In that history she found reasons more than 
enough to explain what she thought rather strange in the be- 
haviour of her patroness, especially when she brought in to 
her aid Agnese's doctrine about the characters of the nobility. 
Nevertheless, though some times induced to return the con- 
fidence which Gertrude reposed in her, yet she carefully 
avoided any mention of her fresh causes of alarm, of her 
new misfortune, and of the ties which bound her to the 
escaped silk-weaver, lest she should run any risk of spreading 
a report so full of her shame and sorrow. She also parried, 
to the best of her ability, all Gertrude's inquisitive questions 
about herself previous to her betrothal, but this was not: 
so much from prudential motives, as because such an ac- 
count appeared to the simple-minded girl more perplexing, 
more difficult to relate, than all she had heard, or thought 
it possible to hear, from the Signora. In the history of that 
lady there was oppression, intrigue, suffering — sad and 
mournful things, but whi<;h, nevertheless, could be named: 
in her own there was a pervading sentiment, a word, which 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 309 

she did not feel it possible to pronounce, when speaking 
of herself, and as a substitute for which she could never 
find a periphrasis that did not seem to her mind indelicate: 
love! 

Gertrude was sometimes tempted to be angry at these 
repulses; but there always appeared behind them so much 
affection, so much respect, so much gratitude, and even so 
much trustfulness ! Sometimes, perhaps, that modesty, so 
delicate, sensitive, and mysterious, displeased her still more 
on another account; but all was quickly forgotten in the 
soothing thought that every moment recurred to her mind 
when contemplating Lucia; — I am doing her good. — And 
this was true; for, besides the asylum she had provided, 
these conversations and her familiar treatment were some 
comfort to Lucia. The poor girl also found another satis- 
faction in constant employment; she always petitioned for 
something to do, and when she went into the Signora's 
parlour, generally took a little needlework with her, to keep 
her fingers employed : but what melancholy thoughts crowded 
her mind, wherever she went ! While plying her needle, — 
an occupation to which hitherto she had given little attention, 
— her reel constantly presented itself to her view; and with 
the reel, how many other things ! 

The second Thursday^ the same, or another messenger ar- 
rived, bringing salutations and encouragement from Father 
Cristof oro, and an additional confirmation of Renzo's escape ; 
but no more positive information about his misfortunes. 
The reader may remember that the Capuchin 'had hoped 
for some account from his brother-friar at Milan, to whom 
he had given Renzo a letter of recommendation; he only re- 
plied, however, that he had seen neither letter nor person: 
that a stranger from the country had certainly been to the 
convent in search of him, but finding him out, had gone 
away, and had not again made his appearance. 

The third Thursday, no messenger came; which was not 
only depriving the poor women of an anticipated and hoped- 
for source of consolation; but, as it usually happens, on 
every trifling occasion, to those in sorrow and suspense, was 
also a subject of much disquietude, and a hundred torment- 
ing suspicions. Agnese had, for some time, been con- 



310 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

templating a visit to her native village, and this unexpected 
non-appearance of the promised messenger, determined her 
upon taking such a step. Lucia felt very strange at the 
thought of being left without the shelter of her mother's 
wing ; but the longing desire she felt to know something, and 
her sense of securit)^ in that guarded and sacred asylum, 
conquered her great unwillingness; and it was arranged 
between them that Agnese should watch in the street the 
follov/ing day for the fishmonger, who must, necessarily 
pass that way on his return from Milan, and that she would 
ask him to be so good as to give her a seat in his cart, to 
take her to her own m.ountains. She met with him, ac- 
cordingly, and asked if Father Cristoforo had given him no 
commission for her. The fishmonger said, that he had been 
out fishing the whole day before his departure, and had re- 
ceived neither news nor message from the Father, Agnese 
then made her request, which being granted without hesi- 
tation, she took her leave of the Signora and her daughter, 
with many tears; and promising to send them some news 
soon, and return as quickly as possible, she set off. 

The journey was performed without accident. They 
passed part of the night in an inn on the road-side, as usual, 
and setting off on their way before sun-rise, arrived early 
in the morning at Pescarenico. Agnese alighted on the little 
square before the convent, dismissed her conductor with 
many thanks; and, since she was at the place, determined, 
before going home, to see her benefactor, the worthy friar. 
She rang the bell; the person who came to open the door 
was fra Galdino, the nut-seeker. 

* Oh, my good woman, what wind has brought you here? ' 

* I want to see Father Cristoforo.' 
'Father Cristoforo? He's not here.' 

* Oh ! will he be long before he comes back ? ' 

* Long ! ' said the friar, shrugging his shoulders, so as 
almost to bury his shorn head in his hood. 

'Where has he gone?' 

'To Rimini.' 

'To . . . ?' 

' To Rimini.' 

^ Where is that?' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 311 

*Eh! eh! eh!' replied the friar, vertically waving his ex- 
tended hand in the air, to signify a great distance. 

' Alas me ! But why has he gone away so suddenly ? ' 

' Because the Father provincial ordered it/ 

' And why have they sent him away at all, v/hen he was 
doing so much good here? Ah, poor me!' 

' If superiors were obliged to render a reason for all the 
orders they give, where would be our obedience, my good 
woman ? ' 

' Yes ; but this is my ruin/ 

' This is the way it will be. They will have wanted a 
good preacher at Rimini (there are some everywhere, to be 
sure, but sometimes they v/ant a particular man, on pur- 
pose) ; the Father provincial there will have v/ritten to the 
Father provincial here, to know if he had such and such 
a person : and the Father provincial v/ill have said, " Father 
Cristoforo is the m.an for him ; " as, in fact, you see it is.' 

' Oh, poor us ! When did he go ? ' 

"' The day before yesterday.' 

' See nov/ ; if I had only done as I first wished, and come 
a few days sooner ! And don't you know when he m.ay 
return ? Can't you guess at all ? ' 

' Eh, my good v/oman ! Nobody knows, except the Father 
provincial, if eA-en he does. When once one of our preaching 
friars has taken the wing, one can never foresee on what 
branch he will finally alight. They are sought after here, 
and there, and everywhere; and we have convents in all the 
four quarters of the globe. Rest assured, Father Cristoforo 
will make a great noise v/ith his course of Lent sermons, at 
Rimini; for he doesn't always preach extempore, as he did 
here, that the poor people might understand him ; for the city 
pulpits he has his beautiful written sermons, and his best robes. 
The fame of this great preacher will spread; and they may 
ask for him at ... I don't know where. Besides, we 
ought to give himi up, for we live on the charity of the v/hole 
world, and it is but just that we should serve the whole 
world.' 

' Oh dear, dear ! ' again cried Agnese, almost weeping : 
' What can I do without him ? He was like a father to us I 
It is the undoing of us.' 



312 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

'Listen, my good woman; Father Cristoforo was cer- 
tainly an admirable man; but we have others, you know, full 
of charity and ability, and who know how to deal with 
either rich or poor. Will you have Father Atanasio? or 
Father Girolamo? or Father Zaccaria? Father Zaccaria, 
you know, is a man of great worth. And don't you wonder, 
as some ignorant people do, that he is so thin, and has such 
a weak voice, and such a miserable beard: I don't say that 
he is a good preacher, because everybody has his particular 
gifts; but he is just the man to give advice, you know.' 

* Oh holy patience ! ' exclaimed Agnese, with that mixture 
of gratitude and impatience that one feels at an offer 
in which there is more good nature than suitableness : ' What 
does it matter to me what a man is or is not, when that 
good man, who's no longer here, was he who knew all 
our affairs, and had made preparations to help us ? ' 

' Then you must have patience.' 

' I know that,' replied Agnese : * forgive me for troubling 
you.' 

* Oh don't say a word, my good woman ; I am very sorry 
for you. And if you determine upon consulting any of 
the Fathers, the convent is here, and won't go away. I 
shall see you soon, when I collect the oil.' 

' Good-bye,' said Agnese ; and she turned towards her 
little village, forlorn, perplexed, and disconcerted, like a 
blind man v/ho has lost his staff. 

Rather better informed than fra Galdino, we will now 
relate how things had really happened. Immediately on 
Attilio's arrival at Milan> he went, as he had promised Don 
Rodrigo, to pay a visit to their common uncle of the Privy- 
council. (This was a committee, composed, at that time, of 
thirteen persons of rank, with whom the governor usually 
consulted, and who, when he either died or resigned his office, 
temporarily assumed the command.) Their uncle, the Count, 
a robed member, and one of the oldest of the Council, en- 
joyed there a certain authority; but in displaying this au!- 
thoritys, and making it felt by those around him, there v/as not 
his equal. Ambiguous language, significant silence, abrupt 
pauses in speaking, a wink of the eye, that seemed to say, 
*i may not speak,' flattery without promises, and formal 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 313 

threatenings — all were directed to this end; and all, more or 
less, produced the desired effect; so that even the positive 
declaration, ' I can do nothing in this business,' pronounced 
sometimes in absolute truth, but pronounced so that it was 
not believed, only served to increase the idea, and, therefore 
the reaHty, of his power: like the japanned boxes which 
may still be occasionally seen in an apothecary's shop, with 
sundry Arabic characters stamped upon them, actually con- 
taining nothing, yet serving to keep up the credit of the shop. 
That of the Count, which had been for a long time in- 
creasing, by very gradual steps, had, at last, made a giant's 
stride, as the saying is, on an extraordinary occasion; 
namely, a journey to Madrid, on an embassy to the Court, 
where the reception that he met with should be related by 
himself. To mention nothing else the Count Duke had 
treated him with particular condescension, and admitted 
him into his confidence so far as to have asked him, in the 
presence, he might say, of half the Court, how he liked 
Madrid, and to have told him^ another time, when standing 
in the recess of a window, that the Cathedral of Milan was 
the largest Christian temple in the king's dominions. 

After paying all due ceremony to his uncle, and deliver- 
ing his cousin's compliments, Attilio addressed him with a 
look of seriousness, such as he knew how and when to 
assume : * I think I am only doing my duty without betraying 
Rodrigo's confidence, when I acquaint my uncle with an 
affair, which, unless you interfere, may become serious, and 
produce consequences . . .' 

* One of his usual scrapes, I suppose ? ' 

* I can assure you that the fault is not on Rodrigo's 
side, but his spirit is roused; and, as I said, no one but you 
can . . .' 

'Well, let us hear, let us hear.' 

* There is a Capuchin friar in that neighbourhood, wha 
bears a grudge against my cousin; and things have gone. 
to such a pitch that . . .' 

* How often have I told you both to let the monks fry their 
own fish? It is quite sufficient for those to have to do with 
them who are obHged . . . whose business it is . •; .' and 
here he sighed. ' But you can avoid them . . .' 



314 ALESSANDRO MAN20NI 

* Signor uncle, I am bound to tell you that Rodrigo would 
have let them alone, had it been possible. It is the friar who 
is determined to quarrel with him, and has tried in every way 
to provoke him/ 

* What the^ ^has this friar to do with my nephew? ' 

* First of all, he is well known as a restless spirit, vv^ho prides 
himself upon quarrelling with gentlemen. This fellow, toOj 
has taken under his protection and direction, and I don't know 
what besides, a country girl of the village, whom he regards 
with an affection ... an affection ... I don't say of what 
kind ; but a very j ealous, suspicious, and sullen affection.' 

* I understand,' said the Count, and a ray of cunning in- 
telligence shot across the depth of dulness nature had stamped 
upon his countenance, nov/, however, partially veiled under 
the mask of a politician. 

* Now, for some time/ continued Attilio, * this friar has 
taken a fancy that Rodrigo has, I don't know v^^hat designs 
upon this . . .' 

* Taken a fancy, eh, taken a fancy ? I know the Signor 
Don Rodrigo too well ; and it needs another advocate besides 
your lordship to justify him in these matters.' 

' That Rodrigo, Signor uncle, may have had some idle jest- 
ing with this girl, when he met her on the road, I can easily 
believe: he is young, and besides, not a Capuchin: but these 
are mere nonsenses, not worth mentioning to my noble uncle : 
the serious part of the business is, that the friar has begun to 
talk of Rodrigo as he would of a common fellow, and has 
tried to instigate all the country against him.' 

' And the other friars ? ' 

* They don't meddk with it, because they know him to be a 
hot-headed fool, and bear a great respect to Rodrigo ; but, on 
the other side, this monk has great reputation among the 
villagers as a saint, and . . .' 

* I fancy he doesn't know that Rodrigo is my nephew . . .' 

* Doesn't he, though? It is just this that urges him 
onward.' 

* How ? how ? ' 

' Because — and he scruples not to publish it — ^he takes 
greater delight in vexing Rodrigo, exactly because he has a 
natural protector of such authority as your lordship; he 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 315 

laughs at great people and politicians, and says that the cord 
of St Francis binds even swords and . . .' 

* The rash villain ! What is his name ? ' 

*Fra Cristoforo, of * * */ said Attilio; and his uncle, 
taking a tablet from his desk, and considerably incensed, in- 
scribed within it the unfortunate name. In the mean while 
Attilio continued : * This fellow has always had such a dis- 
position: his former life is well known. He was a plebeian, 
who possessed a little money, and would, therefore, compete 
with the noblem.en of his country; and out of rage at not 
being able to make them all yield to him, he killed one, and 
then turned friar to escape the gallows/ 

* Bravo ! capital ! we will see, we will see,* exclaimed the 
Count, panting and puffing with an important air. 

* Lately,' continued Attilio, * he is more enraged than ever, 
because he has failed in a design which he was very eager 
about; and from this my noble uncle will understand vWiat 
sort of man he is. This fellow wanted to marry his protegee ; 
whether to remove her from the perils of the world, you un- 
derstand, or whatever it might be, at anj^ rate he was de- 
termined to marry her; and he had found the . . » the man, 
another of his proteges, a person whose name my honoured 
uncle may not improbably have heard; for I dare say the 
Privy-council have had some transactions with this worthy 
subject.' 

'Who is he?' 

* A silk-weaver, Lorenzo Tramaglino, he who . . .' 

* Lorenzo Tramaglino ! ' exclaimed his uncle. * Well done, 
my brave friar ! Certainly ! . . . indeed ... he had a letter 
for a ... A crime that . . . But it matters not ; very well. 
And why did Don Rodrigo tell me nothing of all this; but 
let things go so far, without applying to one who is both able 
and willing to direct and help him ? ' 

* I will be candid with you. On the one hand, knowing 
how many intrigues and affairs you had in your head . . J 
(here his uncle drew a long breath, and put his hand to his 
forehead, as if to intimate the fatigue he underwent in the 
settlement of so many intricate undertakings,) *he f^lt in a 
manner bound,' continued Attilio, ' not to give you any addi- 
tional trouble. And besides, I will tell you the whole: from 



316 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

what I can gather, he is so vexed, so angry, so annoyed at the 
insults offered him by this friar, that he is more desirous of 
getting justice for himself by some summary means, than of 
obtaining it in the regular way of prudence by the assistance 
of your Lordship. I have tried to extinguish the flame; but 
seeing things taking a wrong course, I thought it my duty to 
inform your Lordship of everything, v^^ho, after all, is the 
head and chief prop of the house . . / 

*You v/ould have done better to have spoken a little 
sooner.' 

* True ; but I continued to hope that the thing would die 
off of itself, or that the friar would, at last, come to his 
senses, or would, perhaps, leave the convent, as is often the 
case among the monks, who are one day here and another 
there ; and then all would have been quietly ended. But . . / 

* Now it is my business to settle it.' 

* So I have thought. I said to myself : The Signor, my 
uncle, with his discretion and authority, will know well 
enough how to prevent a quarrel, and at the same tim.e secure 
Rodrigo's honour, which is almost, as it were, his own. This 
friar, thought I, is always boasting of the girdle of St 
Francis ; but to employ this girdle seasonably, it is not neces- 
sary to have it always buckled around one's waist. My noble 
uncle has many means that I know not of : I only know that 
the Father provincial has, as is but right, a great respect for 
him; and if my honoured uncle thought that the best course, 
in this instance, would be to give the friar a change of air; 
two words . . .' 

'Your Lordship will be pleased to leave the arrange- 
ment to the person it belongs to,' said his imcle, rather 
abruptly. 

* Oh, certainly ! ' exclaimed Attilio, with a toss of his head, 
and a disguised smile of disdainful compassion. ' I am not 
intending to give advice to your Lordship ! But the regard 
I have for the reputation of the family made me speak. And 
I am afraid I have been guilty of another error,' added he, 
with a thoughtful air ; * I fear I have wronged Rodrigo in 
your Lordship's opinion. I should have no peace if I were 
the cause of making you think that Rodrigo had not all the 
confidence in you, and all the submission to your will, that he 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 317 

ought to have. Believe me, Signer uncle, that, in this, in- 
stance, it is merely . . / 

* Come, come ; you two won't wrong each other, if you can 
help it; you will be always friends, till one of you becomes 
prudent. Ever getting into some scrape or other, and ex- 
pecting me to settle it : for . . . you will force me to say so, 
you give me more to think about, you two, than . . .' here 
he heaved a profoimd sigh — * all these blessed affairs of 
state/ 

Attilio made a few more excuses, promises, and compli- 
ments, and then took his leave, accompanied by a — * Be pru- 
dent/ — the Count's usual form of dismissal to his nephews. 



CHAPTER XIX 

IF a weed be discovered in a badly cultivated field, a fine 
raot of sorrel, for example, and tlie spectator wish to 
ascertain with certainty whether it has sprung up from 
seed, either ripened in the field itself, or wafted thither hy 
the wind, or dropped there by a bird in its flight, let him 
think as he will about it, he will never come to a satisfactory 
conclusion. For the same reason we are unable to decide 
whether the resolution formed by the Count of making use 
of the Father provincial to cut in two, as the best and easiest 
method, this intricate knot, arose from his own unassisted 
imagination, or from the suggestions of Attilio. Certain it 
is, that Attilio had not thrown out the hint unintentionally; 
and however naturally he might expect that the jealous 
haughtiness of his noble relative would recoil at so open an 
insinuation, he was determined at any rate to make the idea 
of such a resource flash before his eyes, and let him know 
the course which he desired he should pursue. On the other 
hand, the plan was so exactly consonant with his uncle's dis- 
position, and so naturally marked out by circumstances, that 
one might safely venture the assertion, that he had thought 
of, and embraced it, without the suggestion of any one. It 
was a most essential point towards the reputation of power 
which he had so much at heart, that one of his name, a 
nephew of his, should not be worsted in a dispute of such 
notoriety. The satisfaction that his nephew would take for 
himself, would have been a remedy worse than the disease, a 
foundation for future troubles, which it was necessary to 
overthrow at any cost, and without loss of time. Command 
him at once to quit his palace, and he would not obey; and, 
even should he submit, it would be a surrendering of the 
contest, a submission of their house to the superiority of a 
convent. Commands, legal force, or any terrors of that 
nature, were of no value against an adversary of such a 
character as Father Cristoforo: the regular and secular 
clergy were entirely exempt^ not only in their persons, but in 

318 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 319 

their places of abode, from all lay- jurisdiction (as must have 
been observed even by one who has read no other story than , 
the one before him) ; otherwise they would often have fared' 
very badly. All that could be attempted against such a rival 
was his removal, and the only means for obtaining this was 
the Father provincial, at whose pleasure Father Cristoforo 
was either stationary, or on the move. 

Between this Father provincial and the Count of the 
Privy-council there existed an acquaintanceship of long 
standing: they seldom sav/ each other, but whenever they 
met, it was with great demonstrations of friendship, and re- 
iterated offers of service. It is sometimes easier to trans- 
act business advantageously with a person who presides over 
many individuals than with only one of those same individ- 
uals, who sees but his own motives, feels but his own pas- 
sions, seeks only his own ends; while the former instantly 
perceives a hundred relations, contingencies, and interests, a 
hundred objects to secure or avoid, and can, therefore, be 
taken on a hundred different sides. 

"When all had been well arranged in his mind, the Count 
one day invited the Father provincial to dinner, to meet a 
circle of guests selected with superlative judgment: — an 
assemblage of men of the highest rank, whose family alone 
bore a lofty title, and who by their carriage, by a certain 
native boldness, hy a lordly air of disdain, and by talking of 
great things in familiar terms, succeeded, even without in- 
tending it, in impressing, and, on every occasion, keeping up, 
the idea of their superiority and power; together with a fev/ 
clients bound to the house by an hereditary devotion, and 
to its head by the servitude of a whole life ; who, beginning 
w4th the soup to say * yes,' with their lips, their eyes, their 
ears, their head, their whole body, and their whole heart, 
had made a man, by dessert-time, almost forget how to 
say ' no.' 

At table, the noble host quickly turned the conversation 
upon Madrid. There are many ways and means of accom- 
plishing one's object, and he tried all. He spoke of the 
court, the Count-duke, the ministers, and the governor's 
family; of the bull-baits, which he could accurately describe, 
having been a spectator from a very advantageous post ; and 



320 ALESSANDRO MANZ0NI 

of the Escurial, of which he could give a minute account, fee- 
cause one of the Count-duke's pages had conducted him 
through every nook and corner of it. For some time the 
company continued like an audience, attentive to him alone; 
but, by degrees, they divided into small groups of talkers, 
and he then proceeded to relate further anecdotes of the 
great things he had seen, as in confidence, to the Father pro- 
vincial, who was seated near him, and who suffered him to 
talk on without interruption. But at a certain point he gave 
a turn to the conversation, and, leaving Madrid, proceeded 
from court to court, and from dignitary to dignitary, till he 
had brought upon the tapis Cardinal Barberini, a Capuchin, 
and brother to the then reigning Pope, Urban VIII. The 
Count was at last obliged to cease talking for a while, and 
be content to listen, and remember that, after all, there were 
some people in the world who were not born to live and 
act only for him. Shortly after leaving the table, he re- 
quested the Father provincial to step with him into another 
apartment. 

Two men of authority, age, and consummate experience, 
now found them.selves standing opposite to each other. The 
noble lord requested the reverend Father to take a seat, and, 
placing himself at his side, began as follows : ' Considering 
the friendship that exists between us, I thought I might ven- 
ture to speak a word to your Reverence on a matter of 
mutual interest, which it would be better to settle between 
ourselves, without taking any other courses, which might 
, . . But, without further preface, I will candidly tell you 
to what I allude, and I doubt not you will immediately agree 
with me. Tell me: in your convent of Pescarenico there is 
a certain Father Cristoforo of * * * ? ' 

The Provincial bowed assent. 

* Your Paternity will be good enough then, frankly, like 
a friend^ to tell me . . . this person . . . this Father ... I 
don't know him personally; I am acquainted with several 
Capuchin fathers, zealous, prudent, humble men, v/ho are 
worth their weight in gold: I have been a friend to tlie 
order from my boyhood . . . But in every rather numerous 
family . . . there is always some individual, some wild . . . 
And this Father Cristoforo, I know by several occurrences 



1 PROMESSI SPOSI 321 

that he is a person . . . rather inclined to disputes , . . 
who has not all the prudence, all the circumspection ... I 
dare say he has more than once given your Paternity some 
anxiety.' 

— I understand; this is a specimen, — -thought the Pro- 
vincial in the mean tim.e. — It is my fault; I knew that that 
blessed Cristoforo was fitter to go about from pulpit to pul- 
pit, than to be set down for six months in one place, specially 
in a country convent. — 

' Oh ! ' said he aloud, ' I am really very sorry to hear that 
your Highness entertains such an opinion of Father Cris- 
toforo; for, as far as I know, he is a most exemplary monk 
in the convent^ and is held in much esteem also in the nei^- 
bourhood.' 

' I understand perfectly ; your Reverence ought . . . How- 
ever, as a sincere friend, I wish to inform you of a thing 
which it is important for you to know; and even if you 
are already acquainted with it, I think, without exceeding 
my duty, I should caution you against the (I only say) 
possible consequences. Do you know that this* Father Cris- 
toforo has taken under his protection a man of that coun- 
try, a man ... of whom your Paternity has doubtless heard 
mention; him who escaped in such disgrace from the hands 
of justice, after having done things on that terrible day of 
St. Martin . . . things . . . Lorenzo Tramaglino ? ' 

— ^Alas ! — thought the Provincial, as he replied : * This 
particular is quite new to me, but your Highness is suffi- 
ciently aware that it is a part of our office to seek those 
who have gone astray, to recall them . . .* 

*Yes, yes; but intercourse with offenders of a certain 
kind ! ... is rather a dangerous thing — a very delicate affair 
. . .' And here, instead of puffing out his cheeks and pant- 
ing, he compressed his lips, and drew in as much air as he 
was accustomed to send forth with such profound impor- 
tance. He then resumed : * I thought it as well to give you 
this hint, because if ever his Excellency . . . He may have 
had some business at Rome ... I don't know, though . . , 
and there might come to you from Rome . . .* 

* I am much obliged to your Lordship for this informa- 
tion, but I feel confident, that if they would make inquiries 

HC 11— Vol. 21 



322 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

on this subject, they would find that Father Cristoforo has 
had no intercourse with the person you mention, unless it be 
to try and set him right again. I know Father Cristoforo 
well.' 

* You know, probably, already, better than I do, what 
kind of a man he was as a layman, and the life he led in 
his youth.' 

'It is one of the glories of our habit, Signer Count, that 
3 man who has given ever so much occasion in the world 
for men to talk about him, becomes a different person when 
he has assumed this dress. And ever since Father Cristoforo 
has worn the habit . . / 

* I would gladly believe it, I assure you — I v/ould gladly 
believe it ; but sometimes ... as the proverb says ..." It 
ii not the cowl that makes the friar." ' 

The proverb was not exactly to the purpose, but the 
Count had cited it instead of another, which had crossed his 
mind : ' The wolf changes its skin, but not its nature.' 

'I have facts,' continued he; *I have positive proofs . . / 

* If you know for certain,' interrupted the Provincial 
'that this friar has been guilty of any fault, (and we art 
all Hable to err,) you will do me a favour to inform me oi 
it. I am his superior, though unworthily; but it is, there- 
forCj my duty to correct and reprove.' 

* I w411 tell you ; together with the unpleasing circumstance 
of the favour this Father displays towards the person I 
have mentioned, there is another grievous thing, which may 
. . . But we will settle all this between ourselves at once. 
This same Father Cristoforo has begun a quarrel with my 
nephew, Don Rodrigo *=*=««'' 

' Indeed ! I am very sorry to hear it !— very sorry in- 
deed ! ' 

* My nephew is young, and hot-tempered ; he feels what 
he is, and is not accustomed to be provoked . . ,' 

* It shall be my business to make every inquiry on the sub- 
ject. As I have often told your Lordship, and as you must 
know, with your great experience in the world, and your 
noble judgment, far better than I, we are all human, and 
liable to err . . . some one way, some another; and if our 
Father Cristoforo has failed . . .' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 323 

* Your Reverence must perceive that these are matters, 
as I said, which had better be settled between ourselves, 
and remain buried with us— things which, if much meddled 
with, will only be made worse. You know how it often 
happens ; these strifes and disputes frequently originate from 
a mere bagatelle, and become more and more serious as 
they are suffered to proceed. It is better to strike at the 
root before they grow to a head, or become the causes of 
a hundred other contentions. Suppress it, and cut it short, 
most reverend Father; suppress, and cut it short. My 
nephew is young; the monk, from what I hear, has still all 
the spirit — all the . . . inclinations of a young man; and it 
belongs to us who have some years on our shoulders — (too 
many, are there not, most reverend Father?) it belongs to 
us, I say, to have judgment for the young, and try to 
remedy their errors. Fortunately we are still in good time: 
the matter has made no stir; it is still a case of a good 
principiis ohsia. Let us rem.ove the straw from the flame. 
A man who has not done well, or who may be a cause of 
some trouble in one place, sometimes gets on surprisingly in 
another. Your Paternity, doubtless, knows where to find 
a convenient post for this friar. This will also meet the 
other circumstance of his having, perhaps, fallen under the 
suspicions of one . . . who would be very glad that he 
should be removed; and thus, by placing him at a little dis- 
tance, we shall kill two birds with one stone; all will be 
quietly settled, or rather, there will be no harm done.' 

The Father provincial had expected this conclusion from 
the beginning of the interview. — Ay, ay ! — thought he to 
himself; — I see well enough what you would bring me to. 
It's the usual way; if a poor friar has an encounter with 
you, or with any one of you, or gives you any offence, right 
or wrong, the superior must make him march immediately. — 

When the Count was at last silent, and had puffed forth 
a long-drawn breath, which was equivalent to a full stop: 
' I understand very well,' said the Pr'^vincial, *what your 
noble Lordship would say ; but before taking a step . . .' 

* It is a step, and it is not a step, most reverend Father. 
It is a natural thing enough — a very common occurrence; 
and if it does not come to this, and quickly too, I foresee 



324 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

a mountain of disorders — an Iliad of woes. A mistake . . , 
my nephew, I do not believe ... I am here, for this . . . But, 
at the point at which matters have now arrived, if we do 
not put a stop to it between ourselves, without loss of time, 
by one decided blow, it is not possible that it should remain 
a secret . . o and then, it is not only my nephew . . . we raise 
a hornet's nest, most reverend Father. You know, we 
are a powerful family — we have adherents , . / 

' Plainly enough . . .' 

' You understand me : they are all persons who have 
some blood in their veins, and who . . . count as somebody 
in the world. Their honour will come in; it will become a 
common affair; and then . . . even one who is a friend to 
peace ... It will be a great grief to me to be obliged ... to 
find myself ... I, who have always had so much kind feeling 
towards the Capuchin Fathers ! You reverend Fathers, to 
continue to do good, as you have hitherto done, with so 
much edification among the people, stand in need of peace, 
should be free from strifes, and in harmony with those who 
. . . And, besides, you have friends in the world . . . and 
these affairs of honour, if they go any length, extend them- 
selves, branch out on every side, and draw in . . . half the 
world. I am in a situation which obliges me to maintain 
a certain dignity . . „ His Excellency . . . my noble col- 
leagues . . „ it becomes quite a party matter . . . particularly 
with that other circumstance . . . You know how these 
things go.' 

' Certainly,' said the Father provincial, ' Father Cristo- 
foro is a preacher; and I had already some thoughts ... I 
have just been asked . . . But at this juncture, and under 
the present circumstances, it might look like a punishment; 
and a punishment before having fully ascertained . . .' 

' Pshaw ! punishment, pshaw ! — merely a prudential ar- 
rangement — a convenient resource for preventing evils 
which might ensue ... I have explained myself.' 

* Between the Signor Count and me things stand in this 
light, I am aware; but as your Lordship has related the 
circumstances, it is impossible, I should say, but that some- 
thing is known in the country around. There are every- 
where firebrands, mischief-makers, or, at least, malicious 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 325 

priers, who take a mad delight in seeing the nobility and the 
religious orders at variance; they observe it immediately, 
report it, and enlarge upon it . . . Everybody has his dignity 
to miaintain; and I also, as Superior, (though unworthily,) 
have an express duty . . . The honour of the habit ... is not 
my private concern ... it is a deposit of which . . , Your 
noble nephew, since he is so high-spirited as your Lordship 
describes him, might take it as a satisfaction offered to him, 
and ... I do not say boast of it, and triumph over him, 
but . . .' 

* Is your Paternity joking wit2i me? My nephew is a gen- 
tleman of some consideration in the world . . . that is, ac- 
cording to his rank and the claims he has; but in my pres- 
ence he is a mere boy, and will do neither more nor less 
than I bid him. I will go further, and tell you that my 
nephew shall know nothing about it. Why need we give any 
account of what we do? It is all transacted between our- 
selves, as old friends, and never need come to light. Don't 
give yourself a thought about this. I ought to be accus- 
tomed to be silent.' And he heaved a deep sigh. ' As to 
gossips,' resumed he, * what do you suppose they can say ? 
The departure of a monk to preach somewhere else, is 
nothing so very uncommon ! And then, we who see . . . we 
who foresee . . . we who ought . . . we need not give our- 
selves any concern about gossipings.' 

* At any rate, it would be well to try and prevent them 
on this occasion, by your noble nephew's making some dem- 
onstration, giving some open proof of friendship and 
deference . . . not for our sakes, as individuals, but for the 
sake of the habit . . .' 

' Certainly, certainly, this is but fair . . . However, there 
is no need of it; I know that the Capuchins are always re- 
ceived as they ought to be by my nephew. He does so from 
inclination; it is quite the disposition of the family; and 
besides, he knows it is gratifying to me. In this instance, 
however . . . something more marked ... is only right. 
Leave me to settle it, most reverend Father ; I will order my 
nephew . . . that is, I must cautiously suggest it to him, lest 
he should suspect what has passed betv/een us. It would not 
do, you know, to lay a plaister where there is no wound* 



326 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

And as to what we have determined upon, the quicker the 
better. If you can find some post at a little distance ... to 
obviate every occasion . . .' 

* I have just been asked for a preacher at Rimini ; and 
perhaps, even without any other reason, I should have 
thought of . . .' 

' Exactly apropos, exactly apropos. And when . . . ? ' 

* Since the thing must be done, it had better be done at 
once.' 

' Directly, directly, most reverend Father ; better to-day 
than to-morrow. And,' continued he, as he rose from his 
seat, ' if I can do anything, I or my friends, for our worthy 
Capuchin Fathers . . J 

* We know, by experience, the kindness of your house,' 
said the Father provincial, also rising, and advancing towards 
the door, behind his vanquisher. 

*We have extinguished a spark,' said the Count, walking 
slowly forward ; ' a spark, most reverend Father, which 
might have been fanned into a wide-spreading and dangerous 
flame. Between friends^ two or three words will often settle 
great things.' 

On reaching the other apartment, he threw open the door, 
and insisted upon the Father's first entering; then following 
him in, they mingled with the rest of the company. 

This nobleman employed a studied politeness, great dex- 
terity, and fine words, to accomplish his designs; and they 
produced corresponding effects. In fact, he succeeded, by 
the conversation we have related, in making Father Cristo- 
foro go, on foot, from Pescarenico to Rimini, which is a very 
tolerable distance. 

One evening, a Capuchin arrived at Pescarenico, from 
Milan, with a despatch to the Father-guardian. It con- 
tained an order for Father Cristoforo to repair at once to 
Rimini, where he was appointed to preach the course of 
Lent Sermons. The letter to the guardian contained in- 
structions to insinuate to the said friar, that he must give 
up all thoughts of any business he might have in hand in the 
neighbourhood he was about to leave, and was not to keep 
up any correspondence there: the bearer would be his com- 
panion by the way. The guardian said nothing that evening ; 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 327 

but next morning he summoned Father Cristoforo, showed 
him the command, bade him take his wallet, staff, maniple, 
and girdle, and, with the Father whom he presented to him 
as a companion, immediately set off on his journey. 

What a blow this would be to the poor friar, the reader 
must im.agine. Renzo, Lucia, Agnese, instantly rushed into 
his mJnd; and he exclaimed, so to say, to himself: — Oh my 
God ! what will these poor creatures do, when I am no longer 
here ! — But instantly raising his eyes to heaven, he re- 
proached himself for want of faith, and for having supposed 
that he was necessary in anything. He crossed his hands 
on his breast, in token of obedience, and bowed his head 
before the guardian, who, taking him aside, told him the rest 
of the message, adding a few words of advice, and some 
sensible precepts. Father Cristoforo then went into his cell, 
took his basket, and placed therein his breviary, his sermons, 
and the bread of forgiveness, bound round his waist a 
leathern girdle, took leave of his brethren whom he found 
in the convent, v/ent to request the guardian's blessing, and 
then, with his companion, took the route which had been 
prescribed for him. 

We have said that Don Rodrigo, more than ever resolved 
to accomplish his praiseworthy undertaking, had determined 
to seek the assistance of a very formidable character. Of 
this personage we can give neither the name, surname, nor 
title, nor can we even venture a conjecture on any one of 
them; which is the more remarkable, as we find mention of 
him in more than one published book of those times. That 
it is the same personage, the identity of facts leaves no room 
for doubt; but everywhere a studious endeavour may be 
traced to conceal his name, as if the mention of it would 
have ignited the pen, and scorched the writer's hand. Fran- 
cesco Rivola, in his Life of the Cardinal Federigo Borro- 
meo, speaking of this person, says: 'A nobleman, as power- 
ful by wealth as illustrious by birth,' and nothing more. 
Giuseppe Ripamonti, who, in the fifth book of the fifth 
decade of his Storia Patria, makes more exclusive mention 
of him, describes him as * one/ ' this person,' ' that person/ 
* this man/ ' that personage/ ' I will relate,' says he, in his 
elegant Latin, which we translate as follows, — ' the case oi 



328 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

one, who, being among the first of the great men of the city, 
took up his residence in the country; where, securing him- 
self by the force of crime, he set at nought justice and judges, 
all magisterial, and even all sovereign power. Situated on 
the very confines of the state, he led an independent life; a 
harbourer of outlaws, an outlaw at one time himself, and 
then safely returned . . .' We will extract, in the sequel, 
some other passages from this writer, which will serve 
to confirm and elucidate the account of our anonymous 
author, with whom we are travelling onward. 

To do what was forbidden by the public laws, or rendered 
difficult by an opposing power; to be the arbiter, the judge 
in other people's affairs, without further interest in them 
than the love of command; to be feared by all, and to have 
the upper hand among those who were accustomed to hold 
the same station over others : such had ever been the princi- 
pal objects and desires of this man. From his youth he 
had always had a mingled feeling of contempt and impatient 
envy at the sight or report of the power, rencounters, strifes, 
or oppressive tyranny of others. Young, and living in a 
city, he omitted no opportunity, nay, even sought for them, 
of setting himself up against the most renowned of this 
profession, either entirely to subdue them, to struggle with 
them, and keep them in awe, or to induce them to solicit 
his friendship. Superior to most in riches and retinue, and, 
perhaps, to all in presumption and intrepidity, he compelled 
many to retire from competition; some he treated with 
haughtiness or contempt, some he took as friends; not, 
however, on an equality with himself, but, as alone would 
satisfy his proud and arrogant mind, as subordinate friends, 
who would be content to acknowledge their inferiority, and 
flse their hands in his service. In fact, however, he became 
at length the grand actor, and the instrument of his com- 
panions, who never failed to solicit the aid of so powerful 
an auxiliary in all their undertakings, while for him to draw 
back, would be to forfeit his reputation, and come short of 
what he had assumed. He went on thus, till, on his own ser- 
vice and that of others, he had gone to such a length, that 
neither his name, family, friends, nor even his own audacity, 
sufficed to secure him against public proclamations ajid out- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 329 

lawry, and he was compelled to give way and leave the state. 
I believe it is to this circumstance that a remarkable inci« 
dent, related by Ripamonti, ref erSo * On one occasion, when 
obliged to quit the country, the secrecy he used, and the 
respect and timidity he displayed, were such, that he rode 
through the city on horseback, followed by a pack of hounds, 
and accompanied with the sound of the trumpet; and, in 
passing before the palace of the court, left an insolent mes- 
sage with the guards, for the governor/ 

During his absence he continued the same practices, not 
even intermitting his correspondence with those of his 
friends who remained united to him (to translate literally 
from Ripamonti), *in the secret alHance of atrocious con- 
sultations and fatal deeds/ It even appears that he engaged 
the foreign courts in other new and formidable undertak- 
ings, of which the above-cited historian speaks with myste- 
rious brevity. ' Some foreign princes several times availed 
themselves of his assistance in important murders, and fre- 
quently sent him reinforcements of soldiers, from a consid- 
erable distance, to act under his orders/ 

At length (it is not exactly known how long afterwards) 
either the sentence of banishment against him being with- 
drawn, by some powerful intercession, or the audacity of 
the man serving him in place of any other liberation, he 
resolved to return home, and, in fact, did return; not, 
however, to Milan, but to a castle on his manor, situated 
on the confines of the Bergamascan territory, at that time, 
as most of our readers know, under Venetian government; 
and here he fixed his abode. * This dwelling,' we again 
quote Ripamonti, *was, as it were, a dispensary of san- 
guinar}'- m.andates: the servants were outlaws and murder- 
ers; the very cooks and scullions were not exempt from 
homicide ; the hands of the children were stained with blood/ 
Besides this amiable domestic circle, he had, as the same 
historian affirms, another set of dependents of a similar 
character dispersed abroad, and quartered, so to say, at dif- 
ferent posts in the two states on the borders of which he 
lived, who were always ready to execute his orders. 

All the tyrannical noblemen, for a considerable distance 
round, had been obliged, on one occasion or another, to 



330 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

choose between the friendship or the enmity of this super- 
eminent tyrant. Those, however, who at first attempted to 
resist him, came off so badly in the contest, that no one 
was ever induced to make a second trial. Neither was it 
possible, by maintaining a neutral course, or standing, as 
the saying is, in their own shoes, to keep themselves inde- 
pendent of him. If a message arrived, intimating that such 
a person must desist from such an undertaking, or cease to 
molest such a debtor, or so forth, it was necessary to give 
a decided answer one way or other. When one party 
camCj with the homage of a vassal, to refer any business to 
his arbitration, the other party was reduced to the hard 
alternative of either abiding by his sentence, or publicly 
declaring hostilities; which was equivalent to being, as the 
saying is, in the last stage of consumption. Many who Vv^ere 
in the wrong had recourse to him that they might be right 
in effect; many being in the right, yet resorted to him to 
pre-engage so powerful a patronage, and close the way 
against their adversaries ; thus both bad and good came to 
be dependent upon him. It sometimes happened that the 
weak, oppressed, harassed, and tyrannized over by some 
powerful lord, turned to him for protection; he would then 
take the part of the oppressed, and force the oppressor to 
abstain from further injuries^ to repair the wrongs he had 
committed, and even to stoop to apologies; or, in case of 
his proving stubborn and unbending, he would completely 
crush his power, constrain 'him to quit the place where he 
had exercised such unjust influence, or even make him pay 
a more expeditious and more terrible penalty. In these 
cases, his name, usually so dreaded and abhorred, became, 
for a time, an object of blessing: for (I will not say, this 
justice, but) this remedy, this recompense of some sort, 
could not have been expected, under the circumstances of 
the times, from any other either public or private source. 
More frequently, and indeed ordinarily, his power and 
authority m.inistered to iniquitous desires, atrocious revenge, 
or outrageous caprice. But the very opposite uses he made 
of this power produced in the end the self-same effect, that 
of impressing all minds with a lofty idea of how much he 
could will and execute in spite of equity or iniquity, those 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 331 

two things which interpose so many impediments to the 
accomplishment of man's desires, and so often force him 
to turn back. The fame of ordinary oppressors was for the 
most part restricted to the limited tract of country where 
they continually or frequently exercised their oppression: 
each district had its own tyrant; and these so resembled 
each other, that there was no reason that people should 
interfere with those from whom they sustained neither 
injury nor molestation. But the fame of this man had long 
been diffused throughout every corner of the Milanese: his 
life v/as everywhere the subject of popular stories; and his 
very name carried with it the idea of something formidable, 
dark, and fabulous. The suspicions that were everywhere 
entertained of his confederates and tools of assassination, 
contributed to keep alive a constant memento of him. They 
were nothing more than suspicions; since who would have 
openly acknowledged such a dependence? but every tyrant 
might be hi5 associate, every robber one of his assassins; 
and the very uncertainty of the fact rendered the opinion 
more general, and the terror more profound. At every ap- 
pearance of an unknown ruffian, more savage-looking than 
usual; at every enormous crime, the author of which could 
not be at first pointed out or conjectured, the name of this 
man was pronounced and v/hispered about, whom, thanks 
to the unhappy circumspection, to give it no other epithet, of 
our author's, we shall be obliged to designate The Unnamed. 
The distance between his castle and the palace of Don 
Rodrigo was not more than seven miles : and no sooner had 
the latter become a lord and tyrant than he could not help , 
seeing that, at so short a distance from such a personage, 
it would not be possible to carry on this profession without 
either coming to blows, or walking hand in hand with him. 
He had, therefore, offered him.self and been accepted, for a 
friend, in the same way, that is, as the rest: he had ren- 
' dered him more than one service (the manuscript says 
nothing further) ; and had each time been rewarded by 
promises of requital and assistance in any cases of emer- 
gency. He took great pains, however, to conceal such a 
friendship, or at least of what nature and how strict it was. 
Don Rodrigo liked well enough to play the tyrant, but not 



332 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the fierce and savage tyrant: the profession was to him a; 
means, not an end: he wished to live at freedom in the 
city, to enjoy the conveniences, diversions, and honours of 
social life; and for this end he was obliged to keep up a 
certain appearance, make much of his family, cultivate the 
friendship of persons in place, and keep one hand on the 
scales of justice, so as on any occasion to make them pre- 
ponderate in his favour, either removing them altogether 
from view, or bringing them tp bear with double force 
on the head of some individual, on whom he could thus 
more easily accomplish his designs than by the arm of pri- 
vate violence. Now, an intimacy, or it would be better to 
say an alliance, with a person of such notoriety, an open 
enemy of the public power, would certainly not have ad- 
vanced his interests in these respects, and particularly with 
his uncle. However, the slight acquaintance which he was 
unable to conceal, might pass very well for an indispensable 
attention towards a man whose enmity was much to be 
deprecated, and thus it might receive excuse from necessity; 
since one who assumes the charge of providing for another 
without the will or the means, in the long run consents that 
his protege shall provide for himself up to a certain point 
in his own affairs; and if he does not expressly give his 
consent, at least he winks at it. 

One morning, Don Rodrigo set off on horseback, in the 
guise of a hunter, with a small escort of bravoes on foot, 
Griso at his side, and four others following behind him, and 
took the road to the castle of the Unnamed. "" 



CHAPTER XX 

THE castle of the Unnamed was commandingly situ- 
ated over a dark and narrow valley, on the summit 
of a cliff projecting from a rugged ridge of hills, 
whether united to them or separated from them it is difficult 
to say, by a mass of crags and rocks, and by a boundary of 
caverns and abrupt precipices, both flanking it and on the 
rear. The side which overlooked the valley was the only 
accessible one; rather a steep acclivity, certainly, but even 
and unbroken: the summit was used for pasturage, while 
the lower grounds were cultivated, and scattered here and 
there with habitations. The bottom was a bed of large 
stones, the channel, according to the season, of either a 
rivulet or a noisy torrent, which at that time formed the 
boundary of the two states. The opposite ridges, forming, 
so to speak, the other wall of the valley, had a small culti- 
vated tract, gently inclining from the base; the rest v/as 
covered with crags, stones, and abrupt risings, untrodden^ 
and destitute of vegetation, excepting here and there a soli- 
tary bush in the interstices, or on the edges of the rocks. 

From the height of this castle, like an eagle from his 
sanguinary nest, the savage noblemxan surveyed every spot 
around where the foot of man could tread, and heard no 
human sound above him. At one view he could overlook 
the whole vale, the declivities, the bed of the stream, and the 
practicable paths intersecting the valley. That which ap- 
proached his terrible abode by a zigzag and serpentine 
course appeared to a spectator from below like a winding 
thread; while from the windows and loop-holes on the 
summit, the Signor could leisurely observe any one who 
was ascending, and a hundred times catch a view of him. 
With the garrison of bravoes whom he there maintained, 
he couid even oppose a tolerably numerous troop of assail- 
ants, stretching any number of them on the ground, or 
hurling them to the bottom, before they could succeed in 
gaining the height. He was not very likely, however, to be 

333 



334 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

put to the trial, sluee no one who was not on good terms 
with the owner of the castle would venture to set foot within 
Its walls, or even in the valley or its environSo The bailiff 
who should have chanced to be seen there would have been 
treated like an enemy's spy seized within the camp. Tragical 
stories were related of the last who had dared to attempt the 
undertaking; but they were then tales of by-gone days; and 
none o£ the village youths could remember having seen one 
of this race of beings, either dead or alive. 

Such is the description our anonymous author gives of 
the, place: nothing is said of the name; and for fear of 
putting us in the way of discovering it, he avoids all notice 
of Don Rodrigo's journey, bringing him at one jump into the 
midst of the valley, and setting him down at the foot of the 
ascent, just at the entrance of the steep and winding foot- 
path. Here stood an inn, which might also be called a 
guard-house. An antique sign suspended over the door, 
displayed on each side, in glowing colours, a radiant sun; 
but the public voice, which sometimes repeats names as they 
are first pronounced, and sometimes remodels them after 
its own fashion, never designated this tavern but by the 
title of the Malanotte^ 

At the sound of a party approaching on horseback, an 
ill-looking lad appeared at the door-way, well armed with 
knives and pistols, and after giving a glance at them, re- 
entered to inform three ruffians, who, seated at table, were 
playing with a very dirty pack of cards, reversed and laid 
one upon another like so many tiles. He who seemed to be 
the leader rose, and advancing towards the door, recognized 
a friend of his master^s, and saluted him with a bow, Don 
Rodrigo, returning the salutation with great politeness, in- 
quired if his master were in the castle, and receiving for 
an answer that he believed so, he dismounted from his horse, 
throwing the reins to Tlradritto, one of his retinuCo Then, 
taking his musket from his shoulder, he handed it to Mon- 
tanarolo, as if to disencumber himself of a useless weight, 
and render his ascent easier ; but in reality, because he knew 
well enough that no one was permitted to mount that steep 
who carried a gun. Then taking out of his purse two or 

^Bad Night. 



I PROMESSi SPOSI 33S 

three herlinghe, he gave them to Tanabuso, saying: 'Wait 
for me here; and in the mean time enjoy yourselves with 
tliese good people/ He then presented the estimable chief 
of the party with a few gold coins, one half for himself, 
and the rest to be divided among his companions; and at 
length, in company with Griso, who had also laid aside his 
weapons, began to ascend the cliff on foot. In the mean 
while, the three above-mentioned bravoes, together with 
their fourth companion, Squinternotto, (what amiable names 
to be preserved with so much care!) remained behind with 
the three players, and the unfortunate boy, who was train- 
ing for the gallowSj to game, drink, and relate by turns their 
various feats of prowess. 

Another bravo belonging to the Unnamed shortly oven 
took Don Rodrigo in his ascent; and after eying him for 
a moment, recognized a friend of his master's, and bore 
him company; by this means, sparing him the annoyance of 
telling his name, and giving a further account of himself, 
to the many others whom he met, and with whom he was 
unacquainted. On reaching the castle, and being admitted, 
(having left Griso, however, outside,) he was conducted a 
roundabout way through dark corridors, and various apart- 
ments hung with muskets, sabres, and partisans, in each 
of which a bravo stood on guard; and after having waited 
some time, was at last ushered into the room where the 
Unnamed was expecting him. 

The Signor advanced to meet Don Rodrigo, returning his 
salutation, and at the same time eying him from head to 
foot with the closest scrutiny, according to his usual habit, 
now almost an involuntary one, towards any one who ap- 
proached him, even towards his oldest and most tried 
friends. He was tall, sun-burnt, and bald; and at first sight 
this baldness, the whiteness of his few remaining hairs, and 
the wrinkles on his face, would have induced the judgment 
that he was considerably beyond the sixty years he had 
scarcely yet attained: though on a nearer survey, his car- 
riage and movements, the cutting sarcasm of his features, 
and the deep fire that sparkled in his eye, indicated a vigour 
of body and mind which would have been remarkable even 
in a young man. 



336 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Don Rodrigo told him that he came to solicit his advice 
and assistance; that, finding himself engaged in a difficult 
undertaking, from which his honour would not now suffer 
him to retire, he had called to mind the promises of his noble 
friend, who never promised too much, or in vain; and he 
then proceeded to relate his infamous enterprise. The 
Unnamed, who already had some indefinite knowledge of 
the affair, listened attentively to the recital, both because 
he was naturally fond of such stories, and because there was 
implicated in it a name well known and exceedingly odious 
to him, that of Father Cristoforo, the open enemy of tyrants, 
not only in word, but, when possible, in deed also. The nar- 
rator then proceeded to exaggerate, in evidence, the difficul. 
ties of the undertaking: — the distance of the place, a 
monastery, the Signora ! . , « At this word, the Unnamed, 
as if a demon hidden in his heart had suggested it, abruptly 
interrupted him, saying that he would take the enterprise 
upon himself. He took down the name of our poor Lucia, 
and dismissed Don Rodrigo with the promise: *You shall 
shortly hear from me what you are to do/ 

If the reader remembers that infamous Egidio whose 
residence adjoined the monastery where poor Lucia had 
found a retreat, we will now inform him that he was one 
of the nearest and most intimate associates in iniquity 
of the Unnamed; and it was for this reason that the latter 
had so promptly and resolutely taken upon him to pledge 
his word. Nevertheless, he was no sooner left alone, than 
he began to feel, I will not say, repentance, but vexation 
at having made the promise. For some time past he had 
experienced, not exactly remorse, but a kind of weariness 
of his wicked course of life. These feelings, which had 
accumulated rather in his memory than on his conscience, 
were renewed each time any new crime was committed, and 
each time they seemed more multiplied and intolerable: it 
was like constantly adding and adding to an already incom- 
modious weight. A certain repugnance experienced on the 
commission of his earlier crimes, afterwards overcome and 
almost entirely excluded, again returned to make itself felt 
But in his first misgivings, the image of a distant and un- 
certain future, together with the consciousness of a vigorous 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 337 

liabit of body and a strong constitution, had only confirmed 
him in a supine and presumptuous confidence. Now, on the 
contrary, it was the thoughts of the future that embittered 
the retrospect of the past. — To grow old! To die! And 
then? — It is worthy of notice, that the image of death, 
which in present danger, when facing an enemy, usually 
only nerved his spirit, and inspired him with impetuous 
courage, — this same image, when presented to his mind in 
the solemn stillness of night, and in the security of his own 
castle, was always accompanied with a feeling of unde- 
fined horror and alarm. It was not death threatened by 
an enemy who was himself mortal ; it was not to be repulsed 
by stronger weapons, or a readier arm ; it came alone, it was 
suggested from within; it might still be distant, but every 
moment brought it a step nearer; and even while he wag 
hopelessly struggling to banish the remembrance of this 
dreaded enemy, it was coming fast upon him. In his early 
days, the frequent examples of violence, revenge, and murder, 
which were perpetually exhibited to his view, while they 
inspired him with a daring emulation, served at the same 
time as a kind of authority against the voice of conscience: 
now an indistinct but terrible idea of individual responsi- 
bility, and judgment independent of example, incessantly 
haunted his mind; now the thought of his having left the 
ordinary crowd of wicked doers, and surpassed them all, 
sometimes impressed him with a feeling of dreadful solitude. 
That God, of whom he 'had once heard, but whom he had 
long ceased either to deny or acknowledge, solely occupied 
as he was in acting as though he existed not, now, at certain 
moments of depression without cause, and terror without 
danger, he imagined he heard repeating within him, ' Never- 
theless, I am.' In the first heat of youthful passion, the 
laws which he had heard announced in His name had only 
appeared hateful to him; now, when they returned un- 
bidden to his mind, he regarded them, in spite of himself, 
as something which would have a fulfilment But that he. 
might suffer nothing of this new disquietude to be apparent 
either in word or deed, he carefully endeavoured to con-' 
ceal it under the mask of deeper and more vehement ferocity ; ' 
and hy this means also he sought to disguise it from him-' 



338 ALESSANDEO MANZONI 

self, or entirely to stifle it. Envying (since he could neithet 
annihilate nor forget them) the days in which he ha^ 
been accustomed to commit iniquity without remorse, an^ 
without further solicitude than for its success, he used 
every endeavour to recall them, and to retain or reeoves 
his former unfettered, daring, and undisturbed will, that 
he might convince himself he was still the same m.an. 

On this occasion, therefore^ he had hastily pledged his 
word to Don Rodrigo, that he might close the door against 
all hesitation. Feeling, however, on his visitor's departure, 
a failing of the resolution that he had simimoned up to 
make the promise, and gradually overwhelm.ed with thoughts 
presenting themselves to his mind, which tem.pted him to 
break his word, and which, if yielded to, would have made 
him sink very low in the eyes of his friend, a secondary 
accomplice, he resolved at once to cut short the painful con- 
flict, and summoned Nibbio^ to his presence, one of the 
most dexterous and venturesome ministers of his enormities, 
and the one whom he was accustomed to employ in his 
correspondence with Egidio. With a resolute countenance he 
ordered him immediately to mount his horse, to go straight 
to Monza, to inform Egidio of the engagement he had made, 
and to request his counsel and assistance in fulfilHng it. 

The worthless messenger returned more expeditiously 
than his m.aster expected, with Egidio's reply, that the under- 
taking was easy and secure: if the Unnamed would send a 
carriage which would not be knov/n as his, with two or three 
Avell-disguised bravoes, Egidio would undertake the charge 
of all the rest, and would manage the whole affair. At this 
announcement, the Unnamed, v/hatever might be passing 
in his mind, hastily gave orders to Nibbio to arrange all as 
Egidio required, and to go himself, with tv/o others whom 
he named, upon this expedition. 

Had Egidio been obliged to reckon only on ordinary means 
for the accomplishment of the horrible service he had been 
requested to undertake, he certainly would not thus readily 
have given so unhesitating a promise. But in that very 
asylum, where it would seem all ought to have been an 
obstacle, the atrocious villain had a resource known only 

8 A kite. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 339 

to himself* and that which would have been the greatest 
difficuhy to others became an instrument to him. We have 
already related how the unhappy Signora on one occasion 
lent an ear to his addresses ; and the reader may have under- 
stood that this was not the last time.^that it was but the 
first step in a career of abom.ination and bloodshed. The 
same voice, rendered imperative, and almost authoritative 
through guilt, now imposed upon her the sacrifice of the 
innocent creature who had been committed to her care. 

The proposal was frightful to Gertrude. To lose Lucia 
by an unforeseen accident, and without any fault on her 
part, would have seeemed to her a misfortune, a bitter pun- 
ishment: but now she v/as enjoined to deprive herself of her 
society by a base act of perfidy, and to convert a means of 
expiation into a fresh subject for remorse. The unhappy 
lady tried every method to extricate herself from the horrible 
command; — every method, except the only one which would 
have been infallible, and which still remained in her power. 
Guilt is a rigid and inflexible tyrant, against whom all are 
powerless but those who entirely rebel. On this Gertrude 
could not resolve, and she obeyed. 

It was the day fixed; the appointed hour approached; 
Gertrude retired with Lucia into her private apartment, 
and there lavished upon her more caresses than usual, which 
Lucia received and returned with increasing affection: as 
the lamb, trembling under the hand of the shepherd as he 
coaxes and gently urges it forward, turns to lick that very 
hand, unconscious that the butcher waits outside the sheep- 
fold, to whom the shepherd a moment before has sold it. 

' I want you to do me a great service ; one that nobody 
but 5^ou can do. I have plenty of persons ready to obey 
me, but none whom I dare trust. On some very important 
business, which I will tell you about afterwards, I want to 
speak to the Father-guardian of the Capuchins who brought 
you here to me, my poor Lucia; but it is absolutely necessary 
that no one should know I have sent for him. I have nobody 
but you who can secretly carry this message „ , / 

Lucia was terrified at such a request; and with her own 
native modesty, yet not without a strong expression of 
surprise, she endeavoured to dissuade her by adducing rea- 



340 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

sons which the Signora ought to have understood and fore- 
seen: without her mother, without an escort, by a solitary 
road, in an unknown country . . . But Gertrude, instructed 
in an infernal school, manifested much surprise and dis- 
pleasure at finding this stubborn opposition in one whom 
she had so greatly benefited, and pretended to think her 
excuses very frivolous. In broad daylight — a mere step— 
a road Lucia had travelled only a few days before, and 
which could be so described that even a person who had 
never seen it could not possibly go astray ! . , . In short, 
she said so much, that the poor girl, touched at once with 
gratitude and shame, suffered the words to escape: 'Well, 
what am I to do ? ' 

* Go to the convent of the Capuchins ; ' and here she again 
described the road ; ' ask for the Father-guardian, and tell 
him to come to me as quickly as possible; but not to let 
any one know that he comes at my request/ 

* But what shall I say to the portress, who has never seen 
me go out, and will therefore be sure to ask whither I am 
going?' 

' Try to get out without her seeing you ; and if you can't 
manage it, tell her you are going to such a church, where 
you have vowed to offer up some prayers/ 

Here was a new difficulty for Lucia, — to tell a falsehood; 
but the Signora again showed herself so vexed by her re- 
pulses, and made her so ashamed of herself for interposing 
a vain scruple in the way of gratitude, that the poor girl, 
stupefied rather than convinced, and greatly affected by her 
words, replied: 'Very well; I will go. And may God help 
me!* 

And she set off. 

But Gertrude, who from her grated window followed 
her with a fixed and anxious look, no sooner saw her set 
foot on the threshold, than, overcome by an irresistible 
emotion, she exclaimed : ' Listen, Lucia ! ' 

Lucia turned round, and advanced towards the window. 
But another thought, the thought accustomed to predominate, 
had already prevailed over Gertrude's unhappy mind. Pre- 
tending that she was not yet satisfied with the instructions 
she had given, she again described to Lucia the road she 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 341 

must follow, and dismissed her, saying : ' Do everything as 
I have told you, and return quickly/ Lucia departed. 

She passed the gate of the cloister unobserved, and took 
the road along the side of the v/all, with her eyes bent to 
the ground; by the help of the directions she had received, 
and her own recollection, she found the city gate, and went 
out. Self-possessed^ but still rather trembling, she pro- 
ceeded along the high road, and shortly reached the turn 
to the convent, which she immediately recognized. This 
road was, and still is, buried, like the bed of a river, between 
two high banks bordered with trees, which spread their 
branches over it like a vaulted roof. Lucia felt her fears 
increase, and quickened her steps, as she found herself quite 
alone on entering it: but a few paces further her courage 
revived on seeing a travelling carriage standing, and two 
travellers looking this and that way, as if uncertain of the 
road. On drawing nearer, she overheard one of them say- 
ing : * Here is a good woman, who will show us the way.' 
In fact, when she had got opposite the carriage, the same 
person, with a more courteous manner than countenance, 
turned and addressed her : * My good girl, can you tell us 
which is the way to Monza ? ' 

* You have taken the wrong direction,' replied the poor 
girl : * Monza is there . . / and turning to point it out with 
her finger, the other companion (it was Nibbio) seized her 
unexpectedly round the waist, and lifted her from the ground. 
Lucia, in great alarm, turned her head round, and uttered a 
scream ; the ruffian pushed her into the carriage ; a third, who 
was seated in the back of it, concealed from view, received 
her and forced her, in spite of her struggles and cries, to sit 
down opposite to him; while another put a handkerchief over 
her mouth, and stifled her cries, Nibbio now hastily threw 
himself into the carriage, shut the door, and they set off at a 
s^,pid pace. The other, who had made the treacherous inquiry, 
remained in the road, and looked hurriedly around : no one was 
to be seen: he therefore sprang upon the bank, grasped a 
branch of the hedge which was planted upon the summit, 
pushed through the fence, and entering a plantation of green 
oaks, which, for a short distance, ran along the side of the 
road, stooped down there, that he might not be seen fey the 



342 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

people who would probably be attracted by the cries. This 
man was one of Egidio's villains ; he had been to v/atch near 
the gate of the monastery, had seen Lucia go out, had noticed 
her dress and figure, and had then run by a shorter way to 
wait for her at the appointed spot. 

Who can represent the terror, the anguish of the unfortu- 
iiate girl, or describe what was passing in her mind? She 
opened her terrified eyes, from anxiety to ascertain her 
horrible situation, and quickly closed them again with a 
shudder of fear at the sight of the dreadful faces that met 
her view: she writhed her body, but found that she was 
held down on all sides; she collected all her strength, and 
made a desperate effort to push towards the door; but two 
sinewy arms held her as if she were nailed to the bottom 
of the carriage, while four other powerful hands supported 
her there. At every signal she gave of intending to utter 
a cry, the handkerchief was instantly stuffed into her mouth 
to smother the sound, while three infernal miouths, with 
voices more human than they were accustomed to utter, con- 
tinued to repeat : ' Be still, be still ; don't be afraid, we don't 
want to do you any harm.' After a few moments of agonized 
struggle, she seemed to become quieter; her arms sank 
hy her side, her head fell backwards, she half opened her 
eyelids, and her eyes became fixed; the horrible faces which 
surrounded her appeared to mingle and flock before her in 
one monstrous image ; the colour fled from her cheek ; a cold 
moisture overspread her face; her consciousness vanished, 
and she fainted away. 

' Come, come, courage,' said Nibble. ' Courage, courage,' 
repeated the two other rufiians; but the prostration of every 
faculty preserved Lucia, at that moment, from hearing the 
consolations addressed to her by those horrible voices. 

* The ! she seems to be dead,' said one of them: *i£ 

she's really dead ! ' 

* Pshaw ! ' said the other : * It's only a swoon, such as 
women often fall into. I know well enough that when I've 
wanted to send another, be it man or woman, into the other 
world, it has required something more than this.' 

* Hold your tongues,' said Nibbio. 'Attend to your ov/n 
business, and mind nothing else. Take your muskets from 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 343 

under the seat, and keep them in readiness; for there are 
always some villains hidden in the wood we are entering. 

Not in your hands, the ! put them behind your backs, 

and let them lie there; don't you see that she's a cowardly 
chicken, who faints for nothing? If she sees fire-arms, it 
will be enough to kill her outright. And when she recovers, 
take good care you don't frighten her ; don't touch her unless 
I beckon to you; I am enough to manage her. And hold 
your tongues : leave me to talk to her.' 

In the mean while the carriage, which was proceeding at 
a very rapid pace, entered the wood. 

After some time, the unhappy Lucia gradually began to 
come to her senses, as if awaking from a profound and 
troubled sleep, and slowly opened her eyes. At first she 
found it difficult to distinguish the gloomy objects that sur- 
rounded her, and collect her scattered thoughts; but she 
at last succeeded in recalling her fearful situation. The 
first use she made of her newly recovered, though still 
feeble, powers, was to rush towards the door, and attem.pt 
to throw herself out; but she was forcibly restrained, and 
had only time to get a glance at the v/ild solitude of the 
place through which they were passing. She again uttered 
a cry; but Nibbio, holding up the handkerchief in his 
dreaded hand, * Come,' said he, in the gentlest tone he could 
com.mand, ' be quiet, and it will be better for you. We 
don't want to do you any harm; but if you don't hold your 
tongue, we'll make you.* 

* Let me go ! Who are you ? Where are you taking 
me ? Why have you seized me ? Let me go, let me go ! ' 

* I tell you, you needn't be afraid : you're not a baby, 
and you ought to understand that we don't want to do you 
any harm. Don't you see that we might have murdered 
you a hundred timics, if we had any bad intentions ? — so be 
quiet.' 

* No, no, let me go on m.y own business ; I don't know 
you.' 

' We know you, however.' 

* O most holy Virgin ! Let me go, for pity's sake. Who 
are you ? Why have you taken m.e ? ' 

* Because we have been bid to do so.' 



344 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* Who ? Who ? Who can have bid you ? ' 

' Hush ! ' said Nibbio, with a stern look ; ' you mustn't 
ask me such questions.' 

Lucia made a third attempt to throw herself suddenly 
out of the window; but finding it in vain, she again had 
recourse to entreaties; and with her head bent, her cheeks 
bathed with tears, her voice interrupted by sobs, and her 
hands clasped before her, ' Oh ! ' cried she, * for the love 
of God and the most holy Virgin, let me go! What harm 
have I done? I am an innocent creature, and have done 
nobody any harm. I forgive you the wrongs you have done 
m.e, from the bottom of my heart, and will pray God for 
you. If any of you have a daughter, a wife, a mother, think 
what they would suffer, if they were in this state. Re- 
member that we must all die, and that you will one day 
want God to be merciful towards you. Let me go; leave 
me here ; the Lord will teach me to find my way/ 

' We cannot.' 

*You cannot! Oh my God! Why can't you? Where 
are you taking me ? Why ? ' . . . 

* We cannot ; it's no use asking. Don't be afraid, for we 
won't harm you : be quiet, and nobody '11 touch you.' 

Overcome with distress, agony, and terror at finding that 
her words made no impression, Lucia turned to Him who 
holds the hearts of men in His hand, and can, when it 
pleaseth Him, soften the most obdurate. She sank back 
into the corner where she had been placed, crossed her 
arms on her breast, and prayed fervently, from the bottom 
of her heart; then, drawing out her rosary, she began to 
repeat the prayers with more faith and devotion than she 
had ever done before in her life. From time to time she would 
turn to entreat her companions, in hopes that she might 
gain the mercy she implored; but she implored in vain. 
Then she fell back, and again became senseless, only to 
awake to new anguish. But we have not the heart to relate 
these agonizing vicissitudes more at length; a feeling of 
overpowering compassion makes us hasten to the close of 
this mournful journey, which lasted for more than four 
hours; succeeding which we shall be obliged to describe 
many hours of still more bitter anguish. We will transport 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 345 

ourselves to the castle where the unhappy girl was expected. 
She was awaited by the Unnamed with a solicitude and 
anxiety of mind which were very unusual. Strange ! that 
he who had disposed of so many lives with an imperturbed 
heart, who in so many undertakings had considered as noth- 
ing the sufferings he inflicted, unless it were sometimes to 
glut his appetite with the fierce enjoyment of revenge, should 
now feel a recoiling, a regret — I might almost say, a feeling 
of alarm, at the authority he was exercising over this 
Lucia, — a stranger, a poor peasant-girl ! From a lofty 
window of his castle he had been for some time watching 
the entrance of the valley; by and by the carriage made its 
appearance, slowly advancing along the road; for the rapid 
pace at which they had at first started had curbed the 
mettle and cooled the ardour of the horses. And although, 
from the post where he stood to watch, the convoy looked 
no larger than one of those diminutive vehicles with which 
children are wont to amuse themselves, yet he hesitated 
not a moment to recognize it; and his heart began afresh 
to beat violently. 

— Will she be there? — thought he immediately; and he 
continued to say to himself: — What trouble this creature 
gives me ! I will free myself from it. — 

And he prepared to summon one of his men, and despatch 
him immediately to meet the carriage, with orders to Nibbio 
to turn round, and conduct her at once to Don Rodrigo's 
palace. But an imperative no, that instantly flashed across 
his mind, made him at once abandon this design. Wearied 
at length by the desire of ordering something to be done, 
and intolerably tired of idly waiting the approach of the 
carriage, as it advanced slowly, step by step, like a traitor 
to his punishment, he at length summoned an old woman 
of his household. 

This person was the daughter of a former keeper of the 
castle, had been born within its walls, and spent all her 
life there. Ail that she had seen and heard around her 
from her very infancy, had contributed to impress upon 
her mind a lofty and terrible idea of the power of her 
masters; and the principal maxim that she had acquired 
from instruction and example was, that they must be obeyed 



346 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in everything, because they were capable of doing either 
great good or great harm. The idea of duty, deposited Hke 
a germ in the hearts of all men, and mingling in hers with 
sentiments of respect, dread, and servile devotion, v/as 
associated with, and solely directed to, these objects. When 
the Unnamed became her lord, and began to make such 
terrible use of his power, she felt, from the first, a kind of 
horror, and, at the same time, a more profound feeling of 
subjection. In time she became habituated to what she 
daily saw and heard around her: the potent and unbridled 
will of such a Signor was, in her idea, a kind of justice 
appointed by fate. When somewhat advanced in years, 
she had married a servant of the household, who, being 
sent on some hazardous expedition, shortly aftervv^ards left 
his bones on the highway, and her a widow in the castle. 
The vengeance which the Signor quickly took on the in- 
struments of his death, yielded her a savage consolation, 
and increased her pride at being under such protection. 
From that time forward she rarely set foot outside the 
castle, and, by degrees, retained no other ideas of human 
life than such as she received within its precincts. She 
was not confined to any particular branch of service, but 
among such a crowd of ruffians, one or other was con- 
stantly finding her some thing to do, which furnished her 
with a never-failing subject for grumbling. Sometimes 
she would have clothes to repair, sometimes a meal to pro- 
vide in haste, for one who had returned from an expedition, 
and sometimes she was called upon to exercise her medical 
skill in dressing a wound. The commands, reproaches, and 
thanks of these ruffians, were generally seasoned with jokes 
and rude speeches : * old woman ' was her usual appella- 
tion ; while the adjuncts v/hich were perpetually attached 
to it, varied according to the circumstances and humour 
of the speaker. Crossed thus in her idleness, and irritated 
in her peevish temper, which were her two predominant 
passions, she sometimes returned these compliments with 
language in which Satan might have recognized more of 
his ov/n spirit than in that of her tormentors, 

* You see that carriage down there ? ' said the Signor to 
this amiable specimen of woman-kind. 



I PROMESSI SPOSl 347 

° I see it/ replied she, protruding her sharp chin, and 
staring with her sunken eyes, as if trying to force them out 
of their sockets. 

* Bid them prepare a litter immediately ; get into it your- 
self, and let it be carried to Malanotte instantly, that you 
may get there before the carriage; it is coming on at a 
funeral pace. In that carriage there is . . . there ought to 
be ... a young girl. If she's there, tell Nibbio it is my 
order that she should be put into the litter, and that he 
must come directly to me. You will come up in the litter 
with the . . . girl; and when you are up here, take her into 
your own room. If she asks you where you are taking her, 
whom the castle belongs to, take care . . / 

* Oh ! ' said the old woman. 

* But,' continued the Unnamed, ' try to encourage her.' 
' ' What must I say to her ? ' 

' What must you say to her ? Try to encourage her, I 
tell you. Have you come to this age, and don't know how to 
encourage others when they want it ! Have you ever known 
sorrow of heart? Ha.ve you never been afraid? Don't 
you know what words soothe and comfort at such moments ? 
Say those words to her; find them in the remembrance of 
your own sorrows. Go directly.' 

As soon as she had taken her departure, he stood for a 
while at the window, with his eyes fixed on the carriage, 
which had already considerably increased in size; after- 
w^ards he Vv^atched the sun, at that moment sinking behind 
the m.ountain; then he contemplated the fleecy clouds scat- 
tered above the setting orb, and from their usual greyish 
hue almost instantaneously assuming a fiery tinge. He drew 
back, closed the window, and began to pace up and down 
the apartment with the stej) of a hurried traveller. 




CHAPTER XXI 

|HE old woman immediately hastened to obey, and to 
give commands, under the sanction of that name, 
which by whomsoever pronounced, always set the 
whole household on the alert ; for it never entered the imagin- 
ation of any one, that another person would venture to use 
it unauthorized. She reached Malanotte shortly before the 
carriage arrived; and on seeing it approach, got out 
of the litter, beckoned to the driver to stop, advanced 
towards the door, and whispered to Nibbio, who put his 
head out of the window, the wishes of his master. 

Lucia aroused herself, on feeling the carriage stop, and, 
awaking from a kind of lethargy, was seized with renewed 
terror, as she wildly gazed around her. Nibbio had pushed 
himself back on the seat, and the old woman, with her chin 
resting on the door, was looking at Lucia, and saying, 
* Come, my good girl ; come, you poor thing ; come with me, 
for I have orders to treat you well, and try to comfort you/ 

At the sound of a female voice, the poor girl felt a ray of 
comfort — a momentary flash of courage; but she quickly 
relapsed into still more terrible fears. * Who are you?* 
asked she, in a trembling voice, fixing her astonished gaze 
on the old wom.an's face. 

' Come, come, you poor creature,' was the unvaried answer 
she received. Nibbio, and his two companions, gathering 
from the words, and the unusually softened tones of the old 
hag, what were the intentions of their lord, endeavoured, 
by kind and soothing words, to persuade the unhappy girl 
to obey. She only continued, however, to stare v/ildly 
around; and though the unknown and savage character of 
the place, and the close guardianship of her keepers, forbade 
her indulging a hope of relief, she nevertheless, attempted 
to cry out; but seeing Nibbio cast a glance towards the 
handkerchief, she stopped, trembled, gave a momentary 
shudder, and was then seized, and placed in the litter. The 
old woman entered after her; Nibbio left tlie other tvi^o 

348 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 349 

villains to follow behind as an escort, while he himself took 
the shortest ascent to attend to the call of his master. 

'Who are you?' anxiously demanded Lucia of her un- 
known and ugly-visaged companion: 'Why am I with you? 
Where am. I ? Where are you taking me ? ' 

' To one who wishes to do you good/ replied the aged 
dame; *to a great . . . Happy are they to whom he wishes 
good ! You are very lucky, I can tell you. Don't be afraid — 
be cheerful; he bid me try to encourage you. You'll tell 
him, won't you, that I tried to comfort you ? ' 

' Who is he ? — why ? — what does he want with me ? I 
don't belong to him ! Tell me where I am ! let me go ! bid 
these people let me go — bid them carry me to some church. 
Oh ! you who are a woman, in the name of Mary the 
Virgin ! . . / 

This holy and soothing name, once repeated with venera- 
tion in her early years, and now for so long a time unin- 
voked, and, perhaps, unheard, produced in the mind of the 
unhappy creature, on again reaching her ear, a strange, con- 
fused, and distant recollection, like the remembrance of 
light and form in an aged person, who has been blind from 
infancy. 

In the meanwhile, the Unnamed, standing at the door of 
his castle, was looking downwards, and watching the litter, 
as before he had watched the carriage, while it slowly 
ascended, step by step; Nibbio rapidly advancing before it 
at a distance which every moment became greater. When 
he had at length attained the summit, ' Come this way,' 
cried the Signor; and taking the lead, he entered the castle, 
and went into one of the apartments. 

* Well ? ' said he, making a stand. 

'Everything exactly right,' replied Nibbio, with a pro- 
'found obeisance; *the intelligence in time, the girl in time, 
nobody on the spot, only one scream, nobody attracted by it, 
the coachman ready^ the horses swift, nobody met with: 
but . . : 

'But what?' 

* But ... I will tell the truth ; T would rather have been 
commanded to fihoot her in the back, without hearing her 
speak — ^without seeing her face.' 



SSO ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* What ? . . .vv^hat ? . . . what do you mean ? * ^ 

' I mean that all this time ... all this time ... I have 
felt too much compassion for her/ 

' Compassion I What do 3^ou know of compassion? What 
is compassion? ' 

* I never understood so v\^ell what it was as this time; it is 
something that rather resembles fear; let it once take pos- 
session of you, and 3^ou are no longer a man.' 

* Let me hear a little of what she did to excite your 
comjpassion.' 

* O, most noble Signor ! such a time ! . . . weeping, pray- 
ing, and looking- at one with such eyes ! and becoming pale 
as death ! and then sobbing, and praying again, and certain 
words , . / 

— I won't have this creature in my house, — thought the 
Unnamed, meanwhile, to him.self.-— In an evil hour, I en- 
gaged to do it; but I've promised — I've promised. When 
she's far away . , . And raising his face with an imperious 
air towards Nibbio, ' Now/ said he, ' you must lay aside 
compassion, mount your horse, take a companion — two, if 
you like — and ride away, till you get to the palace of this 
Don Rodrigo, you know. Tell him to send immiediately 
. . . immediately, or else . . / 

But another internal no, more imperative than the first, 
prohibited his finishing. * No,' said he, in a resolute tone 
almost, as it were, to express to himself the command 
of this secret voice. ' No : go and take some rest ; 
and to-morrow morning . . . you shall do as I will tell 
you/ 

— This girl must have some demon of her own, — thought 
he, when left alone, standing with his arms crossed on his 
breast, and his gaze- fixed upon a spot on the floor, where the 
rays of the moon, entering through a lofty window, traced 
out a square of pale light, chequered like a draught-board 
by the massive iron bars, and more munutely divided into 
smaller compartments by the little panes of glass. — Some 
dem.on, or . . . some angel who protects her . ^ . Com- 
passion in Nibbio ! . . , To-morrow m.orning — ^to-morrow 
morning, early she must be off from this; she must go to 
her place of destination; and she shall not be spoken of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 351 

again, and, — continued he to himself, with the resolution 
with which one gives a command to a rebellious child, 
knowing that it will not be obeyed; — and she shall not be 
thought of again, either. That animal of a Don Rodrigo 
must not come to pester me with thanks; for ... I don't 
want to hear her spoken of any more. I have served him 
because • . . because I promised; and I promised, because 
... it was my destiny. But I'm determined the fellow shall 
pay me well for this piece of service. Let me see a 
little ... — 

And he tried to devise som.e intricate undertaking, to 
im.pose upon Don Rodrigo by way of compensation, and 
almost as a punishment; but the words again shot across his 
mind — Compassion in Nibbio ! — What can this girl have 
done? — continued he, following out the thought; — I must 
see her. Yet no — yes, I will see her. — 

He went from one room to another, came to the foot of 
a flight of stairs, and irresolutely ascending, proceeded to the 
old woman's apartment; here he knocked with his foot at 
the door. 

'Who's there?' 

* Open the door.* 

The old woman made three bounds at the sound of his 
voice; the bolt was quickly heard grating harshly in the 
staples, and the door was thrown wide open. The Unnamed 
cast a glance round the room, as he paused in the doorway ; 
and by the light of a lamp which stood on a three-legged 
table, discovered Lucia crouched down on the floor, in the 
corner farthest from the entrance. 

' Who bid you throw her there, like a bag of rags, you 
tmcivil old beldame ? ' said he to the aged matron, with an 
angry frown. 

* She chose it herself,* replied she, in an hum.ble tone. 
* I've done my best to encourage her ; she can tell you so 
herself; but she won't mind m^e.' 

* Get up,' said he to Lucia, approaching her. But she, 
whose already terrified mind had experienced a fresh and 
mysterious addition to her terror at the knocking, the open- 
ing of the door, his footstep, and his voice, only gathered 
herself still closer into the corner^ and, with her face buried 



352 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

in her hands, remained perfectly motionless, excepting that 
she trembled from head to foot. 

* Get up ; I will do you no harm . . . and I can do you 
some good,' repeated the Signor . . . ' Get up ! ' thundered 
he forth at last, irritated at having twice commanded in 
vain. 

As if invigorated by fear, the unhappy girl instantly raised 
herself upon her knees^ and joining her hands, as she would 
have knelt before a sacred image, lifted her eyes to the face 
of the Unnamed, and instantly dropping them, said : * Here 
I am, kill me if you will.' 

' I have told you I would do you no harm,' replied the 
Unnamed, in a softened tone, gazing at her agonized features 
of grief and terror. 

* Courage, courage,' said the old woman ; ^ if he himself 
tells you he will do you no harm . . .' 

'And why,' rejoined Lucia, with a voice in which the 
daringness of despairing indignation was mingled with the 
tremor of fear, 'why make me suffer the agonies of hell? 
What have I done to you? . . / 

'Perhaps they have treated you badly? Tell me . . .' 
' Treated me badly ! They have seized me by treachery — ■ 
by force! Why — ^why have they seized me? Why am I 
here? Where am I? I am a poor harmless girl. What 
have I done to you? In the name of God . . / 

* God, God ! ' interrupted the Unnamed, ' always God ! 
They who cannot defend themselves — who have not the 
strength to do it, must always bring forward this God, as if 
they had spoken to him. What do you expect by this word? 
To make me? . . .' and he left the sentence unfinished. 

' O Signor, expect ! What can a poor girl like me expect, 
except that you should have mercy upon me? God pardons 
so many sins for one deed of mercy. Let me go; for 
charity's sake, let me go. It will do no good to one who 
must die, to make a poor creature suffer thus. Oh ! you 
who can give the command, bid them let me go ! They 
brought me here by force. Bid them send me again 
with this woman, and take me to * ^ * , where my mother 
is. Oh ! most holy Virgin ! My mother ! my mother ! — far 
pity's sake, my mother. Perhaps she is not far from here 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 353 

. . . T saw my mountains. Why do you give me all this 
suffering? Bid them take me to a church; I will pray for 
you all my life. What will it cost you to say one word? 
Oh, see ! you are moved to pity : say one word, oh say it ! 
God pardons so many sins for one deed of mercy ! ' 

— Oh, why isn't she the daughter of one of the rascally 
dogs that outlawed me! — thought the Unnam.ed; — of one of 
the villains who v/ish me dead; then I should enjoy her 
sufferings; but instead . . . — 

' Don't drive away a good inspiration ! ' continued Lucia, 
earnestly, reanimated by seeing a certain air of hesitation in 
the countenance and behaviour of her oppressor. * If you 
don't grant me this mercy, the Lord will do it for me. I shall 
die, and all will be over with me; but you . . . Perhaps, some 
day, even you . . . But no, no ; I will always pray the Lord to 
keep you from every evil. What will it cost you to say one 
word? If you knew what it was to suffer this agony! . . .' 

* Come, take courage,' interrupted the Unnamed, with a 
gentleness that astonished the old woman. * Have I done 
you any harm ? Have I threatened you ? ' 

* Oh no ! I see that you have a kind heart, and feel some 
pity for an unhappy creature. If you chose, you could 
terrify me more than all the others : you could kill me with 
fear; but instead of that, you have . . . rather lightened my 
heart; God will reward you for it. Finish your deed of 
mercy : set me free, set me free.' 

* To-morrow morning . . .' 

* Oh ! set me free now — now . . .* 

* To-morrow morning, I will see you again, I say. Come, 
in the mean while, be of good courage. Take a little rest ; 
you must want something to eat. They shall bring you some- 
thing directly.' 

' No, no ; I shall die, if anybody comes here ; I shall die ! 
Take me to a church . . . God will reward you for that 
step.' 

* A woman shall bring you something to eat,' said the 
Unnamed; and having said so, he stood wondering at him- 
self how such a remedy had entered his mind, and how the 
wish had arisen to seek a remedy for the sorrows of a poor 
humble villager. 

HO 12— Vol. 21 



354 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* And you/ resumed he hastily, turning to the aged matron, 
* persuade her to eat something, and let her lie down to rest 
on this bed; and if she is willing to have you as a com- 
panion, well; if not, j'-ou can sleep well enough for one 
night on the floor. Encourage her, I say, and keep her 
cheerful. Beware that she has no cause to complain of 
you.' 

So saying, he moved quickly towards the door. Lucia 
sprang up, and ran to detain him, and renew her entreaties; 
but he was gone. 

* Oh, poor me ! Shut the door quickly.' And having heard 
the door closed, and the bolt again drawn, she returned to^ 
seat herself in her corner. * Oh, poor me ! ' repeated she, 
sobbing ; ' whom shall I implore now ? Where am I ? Do 
you tell me — tell me, for pity's sake, who is this Signer . . . 
he who has been speaking to me ? ' 

' Who is he, eh ? — who is he ? Do you think I may tell 
you? Wait till he tells you himself. You are proud, be- 
cause he protects you; and you want to be satisfied, and 
make me your go-between. Ask him yourself. If I were 
to tell you this, I shouldn't get the good words he has just 
given you. I am an old woman, an old woman,' continued she, 
muttering between her teeth. * Hang these young folks, who 
may make a fine show of either laughing or crying, just as 
they like, and yet are always in the right.' But hearing 
Lucia's sobs and the commands of her master returning in 
a threatening manner to her memory, she stooped toward the 
poor crouching girl, and, in a gentler and more humane 
tone, resumed : ' Come, I have said no harm to you ; be 
cheerful. Don't ask me questions which I've no business 
to answer; but pluck up heart, my good girl. Ah! if you 
knew how many people would be glad to hear him speak, 
as he has spoken to you ! Be cheerful, for he will send 
you something to eat just now; and I know ... by the way . 
he spoke, I'm sure it will be something good. And then you" 
lie down, and . . . you will leave just a little corner for me,' 
added she, with an accent of suppressed rancour. 

* I don't want to eat, I don't want to sleep. Let me alone; 
don't come near me ; but you won't leave the room ? ' 

' No, no, not I,' said the old woman, drawing back, and 



'I PROMESSI SPOSI 355 

seating herself on an old arm-chair, whence she cast sundry- 
glances of alarm, and at the same time of envy, towards the 
poor girl. Then she looked at the bed, vexed at the idea 
of being, perhaps, excluded from it for the whole night, and 
grum^bling at the cold. But she comforted herself with the 
thoughts of supper, and with the hope that there might be 
some to spare for her. Lucia was sensible of neither cold 
nor hunger, and, almost as if deprived of her senses, had 
but a confused idea of her very grief and terror, like the 
undefined objects seen by a delirious patient. 

She roused herself, when she heard a knocking at the 
door; and raising her head, exclaimed, in much alarm, 
* Who's there ? — who's there ? Don't let any one in ! ' 

' Nobody, nobody ; good news ! ' said the old woman ; * it's 
Martha bringing somicthing to eat.' 

* Shut the door_, shut the door ! ' cried Lucia. 

*Ay, directly,' replied the old woman; and taking a 
basket out of Martha's hand, she hastily nodded to her, shut 
the door, and came and set the basket on a table, in the 
middle of the room. She then repeatedly invited Lucia to 
come and partake of the tempting repast, and employing 
words, which, according to her ideas, were most likely to be 
efficacious in restoring the poor girl's appetite, broke forth 
into exclamations on the excellence of the food; — * Morsels 
which, when common people have once got a taste, they 
don't forget in a hurry ! Wine, which her master drank with 
his friends . . . when any of them happened to arrive . . o 
and they wanted to be merry ! Hem ! ' But seeing that all 
these charms produced no effect — ' It is you who won't eat,' 
said she. ' Don't you be saying to-morrow that I didn't try 
to persuade you. I'll eat something, however; and then 
there'll be more than enough left for you, when you come 
to your senses, and are willing to do as you are bid.' 
So saying, she applied herself with avidity to the refresh- 
ments. When she had satisfied herself, she rose, advanced 
towards the corner, and bending over Lucia, again invited 
her to take something, and then lie down. 

* No, no, I don't want anything,' replied she, with a feeble 
and almost drowsy voice. Then with more energy she con- 
tinued; 'Is the door locked? — is it well secured?/ And 



356 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

having looked around, she rose, and feeling with her hands, 
walked with a suspicious step towards the door. 

The old woman sprang thither before her, stretched otit 
her hand to the lock, seized the handle, shook it, rattled the 
bolt, and made it grate against the staple that received and 
secured it. ' Do you hear ? — do you see ? — is it well locked ? 
Are you content now ? ' 

* Oh, content ! I content here ! ' said Lucia, again ar- 
ranging herself in her corner. * But the Lord knows I'm 
here ! ' 

* Come to bed ; what woul^ you do there, crouching like a 
dog? Did ever anybody see a person refuse comforts, when 
he could get them ? ' 

'No, no; let me alone.' 

* Well, it's your own wish. See, I'll leave you the best 
place; I'm lying here on the very edge; I shall be uncom- 
fortable enough, for your sake. If you want to come to bed, 
you know what you have to do. Remember, I've asked you 
very often.' So saying, she crept, dressed as she was, under 
the counterpane, and soon all was silent. 

Lucia remained motionless, shrunk up into the corner, 
her knees drawn close to her breast, her hands resting on 
her knees, and her face buried in her hands. She was 
neither asleep nor awake, but worn out with a rapid suc- 
cession — a tumultuous alternation, of thoughts, anticipa-- 
tions, and heart-throbbings. Recalled, in some degree, to 
consciousness, and recollecting more distinctly the horrors 
she had seen and suffered that terrible day, she would now 
dwell mournfully on the dark and formidable realities in 
which she found herself involved ; then, her mind being car- 
ried onward into a still more obscure region, she had to 
struggle against the phantoms conjured up by uncertainty 
and terror. In this distressing state she continued for a 
long time, which we would here prefer to pass over rapidly ; 
but at length, exhausted and overcome, she relaxed her hold 
on her benumbed limbs, and sinking at full length upon the 
floor, remained for some time in a state closely resembling 
real sleep. But suddenly awaking, as at some inward call, 
she tried to arouse herself completely, to regain her scat- 
tered senses, and to remember where she was, and how, and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 357 

why. She listened to some sound that caught her ear; it 
was the slow, deep breathing of the old woman. She opened 
her eyes, and saw a faint light, now glimmering for a mo- 
ment, and then again dying away: it was the wick of the 
lamp, which, almost ready to expire, emitted a tremulous 
gleam, and quickly drew it back, so to say, like the ebb 
and flow of a wave on the sea-shore ; and thus, withdrawing 
from the surrounding objects ere there was time to display 
them in distinct colouring and relief, it merely presented 
to the eye a succession of confused and indistinct glimpses. 
But the recent impressions she had received quickly returned 
to her mind, and assisted her in distinguishing what ap- 
peared so disorderly to her visual organs. When fully 
aroused, the unhappy girl recognized her prison; all the 
recollections of the horrible day that was fled, all the un- 
certain terrors of the future, rushed at once upon her mind : 
the very calm in which she now found herself after so much 
agitation, the sort of repose she had just tasted, the deser- 
tion in which she was left, all combined to inspire her with 
new dread, till, overcome by alarm, she earnestly longed for 
death. But at this juncture, she remembered that she could 
still pray ; and with that thought there seemed to shine forth 
a sudden ray of comfort. She once more took out her 
rosary, and began to repeat the prayers; and in proportion 
as the words fell from her trembling lips, she felt an in- 
definite confiding faith taking possession of her heart. Sud- 
denly another thought rushed into her mind, that her prayer 
might, perhaps, be more readily accepted, and more certainly 
heard, if she were to make some offering in her desolate 
condition. She tried to remember what she most prized, or, 
rather, what she had once most prized; for at this moment 
her heart could feel no other affection than that of fear, nor 
conceive any other desire than that of deliverance. She did 
remember it, and resolved at once to make the sacrifice. 
Rising upon her knees, and clasping her hands, from whence 
the rosary was suspended before her breast, she raised her 
face and eyes to heaven, and said, ' O most holy Virgin ! 
thou to whom I have so often recommended myself, and who 
hast so often comforted me ! — thou who hast borne so many 
sorrows, and art now so glorious ! — thou who hast wrought 



358 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

so many miracles for the poor and afflicted, help me! 
Bring me out of this danger ; bring me safely to my mother, 

Mother of our Lord; and I vow unto thee to continue a 
virgin ! I renounce for ever my unfortunate betrothed, that 
from henceforth I may belong only to thee ! ' 

Having uttered these words, she bowed her head, and 
placed the beads around her neck, almost as a token of her 
consecration, and, at the same time, as a safeguard, a part of 
the armour for the new warfare to which she had devoted 
herself. Seating herself again on the floor, a kind of tran- 
quillity, a more childlike reliance, gradually diffused them- 
selves over her soul. The to-morrom morning, repeated by 
the unknown nobleman, came to her mind, and seemed to her 
ear to convey a promise of deliverance. Her senses, wearied 
by such struggles, gradually gave way before these soothing 
thoughts; until at length, towards day-break, and with the 
name of her protectress upon her lips, Lucia sank into a 
profound and unbroken sleep. 

But in this same castle there was one who would willingly 
have followed her example, yet who tried in vain. After 
departing, or rather escaping, from Lucia, giving orders for 
her supper, and paying his customary visits to several posts 
in his castle, w^ith her image ever vividly before his eyes, 
and her words resounding in his ears, the nobleman had 
hastily retired to his chamber, impetuously shut the door 
behind him, and hurriedly undressing, had lain down. But 
that image, which now more closely than ever haunted his 
mind, seemed at that moment to say : ' Thou shalt not 
sleep ! " — What absurd womanly curiosity tempted me to go 
see her? — thought he. — That fool of a Nibbio was right: 
one is no longer a man ; yes, one is no longer a man ! = . , 

1 ? . . . am I no longer a man ? What has happened ? What 
devil has got possession of me? What is there new in all 
this? Didn't I know, before now, that women always weep 
and implore? Even men do sometimxes, when they have not 

the pov/er to rebel. What the^ ! have I never heard 

women cry before?—- 

And here, without giving himself much trouble to task 
his memory, it suggested to him, of its own accord, more 
than one instance in which neither entreaties nor lamen- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 359 

tations availed to deter him from the completion of enter- 
prises upon which he had once resolved. But these remem- 
brances, instead of inspiring him with the courage he now 
needed to prosecute his present design as it would seem 
he expected and wished they might, instead of helping to 
dispel his feelings of com.passion, only added to them those 
of terror and consternation, until they compelled him to re- 
turn to that first image of Lucia, against which he had been 
seeking to fortify his courage. — She still lives, — said he: — 
She is here; I am in time; I can yet say to her, Go, and be 
happy ; I can yet see that countenance change ; I can even 
say, Forgive me . . . Forgive me? I ask forgiveness? And 
of a woman, too ? I ? . . . Ah, however ! if one v/ord, one 
such word could do me good, could rid me of the demon 
that now possesses me, I would say it; yes, I feel that I 
would say it. To what am I reduced ! I'm no longer a 
man ; surely, no longer a man ! . . . Away ! — said he, turn- 
ing himself with impetuosity on the couch which had now 
become so hard, under the covering which had now become 
so intolerable a weight : — Away ! these are fooleries which 
have many a time passed through my head. This will take 
its flight too. — 

And to effect such a riddance, he began seeking some 
important subject, some of the many which often so busily 
occupied his mind, in hopes he might be entirely engrossed 
by it; but he sought in vain. All appeared changed: that 
which once most urgently stimulated his desires, now no 
longer possessed any charms for him: his passions, like a 
steed suddenly become restive at the sight of a shadow, 
refused to carry him any further. In reflecting on enter- 
prises engaged in, and not yet concluded, instead of ani- 
mating himself to their completion, and feeling irritated at 
the obstacles interposed, (for anger at this moment would 
have been sweet to him,) he felt regret, nay, almost con- 
sternation, at the steps already taken. His life presented 
itself to his mind devoid of all interest, deprived of all 
will, divested of every action, and only laden with insup- 
portable recollections; every hour resembling that which 
now rolled so slowly and heavily over his head. He drew 
out before his fancy all his ruffians in a kind of battle- 



360 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

array, and could contrive nothing of importance in which 
to employ one of them; nay, the very idea of seeing them 
again, and mixing among them, was an additional weight, 
a fresh object of annoyance and detestation. And when 
he sought an occupation for the morrow, a feasible employ- 
ment, he could only remember that on the morrow, he 
might liberate his unfortunate prisoner. 

— I will set her free; yes, I will. I will fly to her by 
day-break, and bid her depart safely. She shall be accom- 
panied by . . . And my promise? My engagement? Don 
Rodrigo ? . . . Who is Don Rodrigo ? — 

Like one suddenly surprised by an unexpected and em- 
barrassing question from a superior, the Unnamed hastily 
sought for an answer to the query he had just put to him- 
self, or rather which had been suggested to him by that 
new voice which had all at once made itself heard, and 
sprung up to be, as it were, a judge of his former self. 
He tried to imagine any reasons which could have induced 
him, almost before being requested, to engage in inflicting 
so much suffering, without any incentives of hatred or fear, 
on a poor unknown creature, only to render a service to 
this man; but instead of succeeding in discovering such 
motives as he would now have deemed sufficient to excuse 
the deed, he could not even imagine how he had ever hten 
induced to undertake it. The willingness, rather than the 
determination to do so, had been the instantaneous impulse 
of a mind obedient to its old and habitual feelings, the con- 
sequence of a thousand antecedent actions; and to account 
for this one deed, the unhappy self-examiner found him- 
self involved in an examination of his whole life. Back- 
wards from year to year, from engagement to engagement, 
from bloodshed to bloodshed, from crime to crime, each one 
stood before his conscience-stricken soul, divested of the 
feelings which had induced him to will and commit it, and 
therefore appearing in all its monstrousness, which those 
'feelings had, at the time, prevented his perceiving. They 
were all his own, they made up himself; and the horror 
of this thought, renewed with each fresh remembrance, 
and cleaving to all, increased at last to desperation. He 
sprang uj) impetuously in his bed, eagerly stretched out 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 361 

his hand towards the wall at his side, touched a pistol, 
grasped it, reached it down, and ... at the moment of 
finishing a life which had become insupportable, his thoughts, 
seized with terror and a (so to say) superstitious dread, 
rushed forward to the time which would still continue to 
flow on after his end. He pictured with horror his dis- 
figured corpse, lying motionless, and in the power of his 
vilest survivor; the astonishment, the confusion of the 
castle in the morning: everything turned upside down; and 
he, powerless and voiceless, thrown aside, he knew not 
whither. He fancied the reports that would be spread, the 
conversations to which it would give rise, both in the castle, 
the neighbourhood, and at a distance, together with the 
rejoicings of his enemies. The darkness and silence around 
him presented death in a still more mournful and frightful 
aspect; it seemed to him that he would not have hesitated 
in open day, out of doors, and in the presence of spectators, 
to throw himself into the water, and vanish. Absorbed in 
such tormenting reflections, he continued alternately snap- 
ping and unsnapping the cock of his pistol with a convulsive 
movement of his thumb^ when another thought flashed across 
his mind. — If this other life, of which they told me when I 
was a boy, of which everybody talks now, as if it were 
a certain thing, if there be not such a thing, if it be an 
invention of the priests; what am I doing? why should I die? 
what matters all that I have done? what matters it? It is 
an absurdity, my . . . But if there really be another 
life ! . . . — 

At such a doubt, at such a risk, he was seized with a 
blacker and deeper despair, from which even death af^ 
forded no escape. He dropped the pistol, and lay with his 
fingers twined among his hair, his teeth chattering, and 
trembling in every limb. Suddenly the words he had heard 
repeated a few hours before rose to his remembrance: — 
God pardons so many sins for one deed of mercy ! — They 
did not come to him with that tone of humble supplication 
in which they had been pronounced; they came with a 
voice of authority, which at the same time excited a distant 
glimmering of hope. It was a moment of relief: he raised 
his hands from his temples, and^ in a more composed at- 



362 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

titude, fixed his mind's eye on her who had uttered the 
words; she seemed to him no longer Hke his prisoner and 
suppHant, but in the posture of one who dispenses mercy 
and consolation. He anxiously awaited the dawn of day, 
that he might fly to liberate her, and to hear from her lips 
other words of alleviation and life, and even thought of 
conducting her himself to her mother. — And then ? what shall 
I do to-morrow for the rest of the day? What shall I do 
the day after to-morrow? And the day after that again? 
And at night? the night which will return in tv/elve hours? 
Oh, the night ! no, no, the night ! — And falling again into 
the weary void of the future, he sought in vain for some 
employment of time, some way of living through the days 
and nights. One moment he proposed leaving his castle, 
and going into some distant country, where he had never 
been known or heard of; but he felt that he should carry 
himself with him. Then a dark hope would arise that he 
should resume his former courage and inclinations, and that 
this would prove only a transient delirium. Now he dreaded 
the light which would show him to his followers so miserably 
changed; then he longed for it, as if it would bring light 
also to his gloomy thoughts. And, lo ! about break of day, a 
few moments after Lucia had fallen asleep, while he was 
seated motionless in his bed, a floating and confused mur- 
mur reached his ear, bringing with it something joyous 
and festive in its sound. Assuming a listening posture, 
he distinguished a distant chim.ing of bells; and, giving 
still more attention, could hear the mountain echo, every 
now and then, languidly repeating the harmony, and min- 
gling itself with it. Immediately afterwards his ear caught 
another, and still nearer peal: then another, and another. — 
What rejoicings are these? What are they all so merry 
about? What is their cause of gladness? — He sprang from 
his bed of thorns; and, half-dressing himself in haste, went 
to the window, threw up the sash, and looked out. The 
mountains were still wrapt in gloom; the sky was not so 
much cloudy, as composed of one entire lead-coloured cloud ; 
but by the already glimmering light of day, he distinguished 
in the road, at the bottom of the valley, numbers of people 
passing eagerly along, — some leaving their dwellings and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 363 

moving on with the crowd, and all taking the same direc- 
tion towards the outlet of the vale on the right of the 
castle; he could even distinguish the joyous bearing and holi- 
day dress of the passengers. — What the is the matter 

with these people ? What cause of merriment can there be in 
this cursed neighbourhood? — And calling a confidential bravo 
who slept in the adjoining room, he asked him what was the 
cause of this movement. The man replied that he knew 
no more than his master, but would go directly to make 
inquiry. The Signor remained with his eyes riveted upon 
the moving spectacle, which increasing day rendered every 
m.omeht more distinct. He watched crowds pass by, and 
new crowds constantly appear; men, v/omen, children, in 
groups, in couples, or alone; one, overtaking another who 
was before him, walked in company with him; another, just 
leaving his door, accompanied the first he fell in with by the 
way; and so they proceeded together, like friends in a pre- 
concerted journey. Their behaviour evidently indicated a 
common haste and joy; and the unharmonious, but simul- 
taneous burst of the different chimes, some more, some less 
contiguous and distinct, seemed, so to say, the common 
voice of these gestures, and a supplement to the words which 
could not reach him from below. He looked and looked, 
till he felt more than common curiosity to know what could 
communicate so unanimous a will, so general a festivity, 
to so many different people. 



CHAPTER XXII 

HORTLY afterwards the bravo returned with the in- 
formation, that Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, arch- 
bishop of Milan, had arrived the day before at * * *, 
with the purpose of spending there that which was now just 
dawning ; that the news of his arrival, which had been spread 
around for a considerable distance the preceding evening, 
had excited a desire in the people to go and see this great 
man; and that the bells were ringing, both to express their 
joy, and more widely to diffuse the glad intelligence. When 
again alone, the Signor continued to look down into the 
valley, still more absorbed in thought. — For a man! Every- 
body eager, everybody joyful, at the sight of a man ! And 
yet, doubtless, each has his own demon that torments him. 
But none, none will have one like mine! None will have 
passed such a night as I have! What has this man about 
him to make so many people merry? Some pence, perhaps, 
that he will distribute at random among them . . . But all 
these cannot be going for alms. Well then, a few acknowl- 
edgments and salutations — a word or two . . . Oh ! if he had 
any words for me that could impart peace ! if ! . . . Why 
shouldn't I go too ? Why not ? ... I will go ! what else can 
I do ? I will go ; and I will talk with him : face to face I'll 
have some talk with him. What shall I say, though ? Well, 
whatever, whatever . . . I'll hear first what the man has to 
say for himself ! — 

Having come to this vague determination, he hastily fin- 
ished dressing himself, and put on, over all, a great coat, 
which had something of a military cut about it; he then took 
up the pistol which lay upon the bed, and secured it on one 
side of his belt, fastening at the other its fellow, which hung 
Upon a nail in the wall; stuck a dagger into this same girdle; 
and taking a carabine from the wall, which was almost as 
famous as himself, swung it across his shoulders: then he 
put on his hat, quitted the apartment, and repaired at once to 
that in which he had left Lucia. Setting down his carabine 

364 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 365 

in a corner near the door, he knocked, at the same time 
letting them know, by his voice, who he was. The old 
woman sprang out of bed, threw some article of clothing 
around her, and flew to open the door. The Signor entered, 
and, casting a glance around the room, saw Lucia lying in 
her little corner, and perfectly quiet. 

' Does she sleep ? ' asked he, in an under-tone, of the old 
woman: * But is she sleeping there? were these my orders, 
you old hag ? ' 

*I did all I could,' replied the woman; 'but she wouldn't 
eat, and she wouldn't come . . ,' 

' Let her sleep quietly ; take care you don't disturb her ; 
and when she awakes . . . Martha shall wait in the next 
room; and you must send her to fetch anything that she 
may ask for. When she awakes . . . tell her that I . . . 
that the master has gone out for a little while, that he will 
be back soon, and that ... he will do all that she wishes.' 

The old wom.an stood perfectly astonished, thinking to 
herself : — This girl must surely be some princess ! — 

The Signor then left the room, took up his carabine, sent 
Martha to wait in the adjoining apartment, and the first 
bravo whom he met to keep guard, that no one but this 
woman might i)resume to approach Lucia ; and then, leaving 
the castle, took the descent with a rapid step. 

The manuscript here fails to mention the distance from the 
castle to the village where the Cardinal was staying: it can- 
not, however, have been more than a moderate walk. We do 
not infer the proximity merely from the flocking thither of 
the inhabitants of the valley; since we find, in the histories 
of these times, that people came for twenty miles, or more, 
to get but one sight of Cardinal Federigo. From the circum- 
stances that we are about to relate, as happening on this day, 
we may, however, easily conjecture that the distance cannot 
have been very great. The bravoes whom he met ascending, 
stopped respectfully as their lord passed, waiting to see if he 
had any orders to give, or if he wished of them to accom- 
pany him on some expedition, and seemed perfectly astonished 
at his countenance and the glances he returned in answer to 
their salutations. 

When, however^ he reached the base, and entered the 



366 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

public road, it was a very different matter. There was a 
general whispering among the first passengers who observed 
him, an exchange of suspicious looks, and an endeavour on 
each side to get out of his reach. For the whole length of 
the way he could not take two steps by the side of another 
passenger; for every one who found him quickly gaining 
upon him, cast an uneasy look around, made him a low bow, 
and slackened his pace so as to remain behind. On reaching 
the village, he found a large crowd assembled; his name 
spread rapidly from mouth to mouth, the moment he made 
his appearance, and the throng fell back to make way for 
him. He accosted one of these prudent gentr}^, and asked 
where the Cardinal was. ' In the Curate's house,' replied the 
addressed party, reverently, at the same time pointing out 
the mansion. The Signor went forward, entered a little 
court, where many priests were assembled, all of whom re- 
garded him with surprised and doubtful looks, and saw be- 
fore him an open door, which gave admission into a small 
hall, where there was also collected a considerable number 
of priests. Taking his carabine from his shoulders, he de- 
posited it in one corner of the little court, and then entered 
the hall, where he was received with significant glances, 
murmurs, and his oft-repeated; name; then all was silent. 
Turning to one of those wno surrounded him, he asked where 
the Cardinal was, and said that he wished to speak to him. 

T am a stranger,' replied the priest; but hastily glancing 
around, he called the chaplain and cross-bearer, who, seated 
in a corner of the hall, was saying, in an under-tone, to his 
companion, * This man ? this notorious character ? what can 
he have to do here ? Make way ! ' However, at this call, 
which resounded in the general silence, he was obliged to 
come forward; he m.ade a lowly reverence to the Unnamed, 
listened to his inquiry, raised his eyes with uneasy curiosity 
towards his face, and instantly bending them on the ground, 
stood hesitating for a moment, and then said, or rather 
stammered out : * I don't know whether his illustrious Lord- 
ship . . . just now ... is to be .. . can . . . may . . . But I 
will go and see.' And he very unwillingly carried the mes- 
sage into the adjoining room, where the Cardinal was by 
himself. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 367 

At this point in our story, we cannot do less than pause 
for a little while ; as the traveller, wearied and worn out with 
a lengthened journey, through a wild and sterile country, 
retards his pace^ and halts for a little time under the shade 
of a noble tree, reclining on the grassy bank of a stream of 
running water. We have now fallen upon a person, whose 
name and memory, occurring when they will to the mind, 
refresh it with a calm emotion of reverence, and a pleas- 
urable feeling of sympathy; how much more, then, after so 
many mournful pictures — after the contemplation of such 
fearful and hateful depravity ! On the history of this 
personage, we must absolutely expend a few words: he 
who cares not about hearing them, and is anxious to pro- 
ceed with the story, may pass on at once to the succeeding 
chapter. 

Federigo Borromeo, born in 1564, was among those char- 
acters, rare in whatever age, who have employed singular 
talents, all the resources of great wealth, all the advantages 
of privileged rank, and an unwearying diligence in the 
search and exercise of the highest objects and principles. 
His life resembles a rivulet, which, issuing limpid from the 
rock, flows in a ceaseless and unruffled, though lengthened 
course, through various lands, and, clear and limpid still, 
falls at last into the ocean. Amidst comforts and luxuries, 
he attended, even from childhood, to those lessons of self- 
denial and humility, and those maxims on the vanity of 
worldly pleasures, and the sinfulness of pride, on true dig- 
nity and true riches, which, whether acknowledged or not in 
the heart, have been transmitted from one generation to an- 
other in the most elementary instruction in religion. He at- 
tended, I say, to these lessons and maxims ; he received them 
in real earnest ; he tried them, and found them true ; he saw, 
therefore, that other and contrary lessons and maxims could 
not possibly be true, which yet were transmitted from age 
to age, with the same asseveration, and sometimes by the 
same lips ; and he resolved to take, as the rule of his thoughts 
and actions, those which were indeed right. By these he 
understood that life was not designed to be a burden to many, 
and a pleasure to only a few; but was intended as a time of 
employment for all^ of v/hich every one would have to give 



368 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

an account; and he began from a child to consider how he 
could render his useful and holy. 

In 1580 he declared his resolution of dedicating himself to 
the ministry of the Church, and received ordination from the 
hands of his cousin Carlo, whom long and universal suffrage 
had already signalized as a saint. Shortly afterwards, he 
entered the college founded by this relative in Pavia, which 
still bears the name of their house ; and here, while applying 
himself with assiduity to the occupations which were pre- 
scribed, he added to them two others of his own free will; 
and these were, to give instruction to the most ignorant and 
neglected among the population, in the doctrines of the 
Christian religion; and to visit, assist, comfort, and relieve 
the sick and needy. He employed the authority conceded to 
him by all around, in inducing his companions to second him 
in such works of charity ; and set a noble example of spend- 
ing, in every honest and beneficial employment, a pre-emi- 
nence which, considering his superior mind and talents, he 
would, perhaps, equally have attained had he been the lowest 
in rank and fortune. The advantages of a different nature, 
which the circumstances of fortune could have procured for 
him, he not only sought not after, but studiously neglected. 
He kept a table rather meagre than frugal, and wore a dress 
rather mean than decent; while the whole tenor of his life 
and behaviour was in conformity with these particulars. 
Nor did he think it necessary to alter it, because some of his 
relatives exclaimed loudly against such a practice, and com- 
plained that by this means he would degrade the dignity of 
the house. He had also another warfare to maintain against 
his instructors, who stealthily, and as it were by surprise, 
endeavoured to place before, behind, and around him, more 
noble appendages, something which might distinguish him 
from others, and make him appear the first in the place: 
either thinking, by this means, to ingratiate themselves with 
him in the long run ; or influenced by that servile attachment 
which prides itself in, and rejoices at, the splendour of 
oih^rs ; or being among the number of those prudent persons 
who shrink back with alarm from the extreme of virtue as 
well as vice, are for ever proclaiming that perfection lies in 
a medium between th'e two^ and fix that medium exactly at 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 369 

the point which they have reached, and where they find 
themselves very much at their ease. Federigo not only re- 
fused these kindly offices, but rebuked the officious instru- 
ments: and that between the ages of childhood and youth. 

That, during the life of the Cardinal Carlo, his senior by 
twenty-six years, in his authoritative and, so to say, solemn 
presence, surrounded by homage and respectful silence, in- 
cited by the fame, and impressed with the tokens of sanctity, 
Federigo, as a boy and a youth, should have endeavoured to 
conform himself to the behaviour and talents of such a 
cousin, is certainly not to be wondered at; but it is, indeed, 
much to be able to say, that, after his death, no one could 
perceive that Federigo, then twenty years of age, had lost a 
guide and censor. The increasing fame of his talents, erudi- 
tion, and piety ; the relationship and connection of more than 
one powerful Cardinal ; the credit of his family ; his very name, 
to which Carlo had almost annexed in people's minds an 
idea of sanctity and sacerdotal pre-eminence ; all that should, 
and all that could, lead men to ecclesiastical dignities, con- 
curred to predict them for him. But he, persuaded in heart 
of what no one who professes Christianity can deny with 
the lips, that there is no real superiority of a man over his 
fellowmen, excepting in so far as he devotes himself to their 
service, both dreaded exaltation, and sought to avoid it; 
not, indeed, that he might shrink from serving others — for 
few lives have been more devoted to this object than his 
own-^but because he considered himself neither worthy 
enough of so high and perilous a service, nor sufficiently com- 
petent for it. For these reasons, the Archbishopric of Milan 
being offered to him in 1595, by Clement VIII., he seemed 
much disturbed, and refused the charge without hesitation. 
He yielded afterwards, however, to the express command 
of the Pope. 

Such demonstrations (who knows it not?) are neither 
difficult nor uncommon; and it requires no greater effort of 
subtlety for hypocrisy to make them, than for raillery to de- 
ride them, and hold them cheap on every occasion. But do 
they, therefore, cease to be the natural expression of a wise 
and virtuous principle? One's life is the touchstone of pro- 
fession ; and the profession of this sentiment, though it may; 



370 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

have been on the tongue of all the impostors and all the 
scoffers in the world, will ever be worthy of admiration, 
when preceded and followed by a life of disinterested self- 
sacrifice. 

In Federigo, as Archbishop, was apparent a remarkable 
and constant carefulness to devote to himself no more of his 
wealth, his time, his care — in short, of his whole self, than 
was absolutely necessary. He said, as everybody says, that 
ecclesiastical revenues are the patrimony of the poor; how 
he showed he understood such a maxim in reality, will be 
evident from this fact. He caused an estimate to be taken 
of the sum required for his own expenditure, and that of 
those in his personal service ; and being told that six hundred 
scudi would be sufficient, (scudo was at that time the name 
of a golden coin which, retaining the same weight and value, 
was afterwards called a 'zecchino,y he gave orders that this 
sum should annually be set apart out of his patrimonial es- 
tate, for the expenses of the table. So sparing and scrupu- 
lous was he in his personal outlay, that he was careful never 
to leave off a dress which was not completely worn out; 
uniting, however, as was recorded by contemporary writers, 
to this habit of simplicity, that of singular neatness ; two re- 
markable qualities, in fact, in this age of ostentation and 
uncleanliness. That nothing, again, m.ight be wasted of the 
remnants of his frugal table, he assigned them to a hospital 
for the poor ; one of whom came daily, by his orders, to the 
dining apartment, to gather up all that remained. Such 
instances of economy might, perhaps, suggest the idea of a 
close, parsimonious, over-careful virtue, of a mind wrapt up 
in attention to minutiae, and incapable of elevated designs, 
were it not for the Ambrosian Library, still standing, which 
Federigo projected with such noble magnificence, and exe- 
cuted, from the foundations upwards, with such munificent 
liberality; to supply which with books and manuscripts, be- 
sides the presentation of those he had already collected with 
great labour and expense, he sent eight of the most learned 
and experienced men he could find, to make purchases 
throughout Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Flanders, Greece, 

^ Sequin: — Z-n Italian gold coin, worth about ten shillings of English 
money. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 371 

Lebanon, and Jerusalem. By this means, he succeeded in 
gathering together about thirty thousand printed volumes, 
and fourteen thousand m.anuscripts. To this library he united 
a college of doctors (nine in number at first, and main- 
tained at his charge while he lived ; afterwards, the ordinary 
income not sufficing for this expense, they were reduced to 
two). Their office was to cultivate various branches of 
study, theology, history, polite literature, and the Oriental 
languages, obliging each one to publish some work on the 
subject assigned to him. To this he also added a college, 
which' he called Trilingue, for the study of the Greek, Latin, 
and Italian languages; a college of pupils, for instruction in 
these several faculties and languages, that they might be- 
come professors in their turn; a printing-office for the Ori- 
ental languages, for Hebrew, that is to say, Chaldaic, Arabic, 
Persian, and Armenian; a gallery of paintings, another of 
statues, and a school for the three principal arts of design. 
For these last he could find professors already existing; but 
as to the rest, we have seen the trouble it cost him to collect 
books and manuscripts. Undoubtedly, it would be more diffi- 
cult to meet with types in those languages, then much less 
cultivated in Europe than.the}^ are at present; and still more 
difficult than types, would be men who understood them. 
Suffice it to say, that, out of nine professors, eight were 
taken from among the young pupils of the seminary; from 
which circumstance we may infer what was his opinion of 
the schools then established, and the celebrity gained in those 
days; an opinion agreeing with that which posterity seems 
to have formed of them, by suffering both one and the other 
to sink into oblivion. In the regulations which he left for 
the use and government of the library, a provision for per- 
petual utility is conspicuous, not only admirable in itself, 
but, in many particulars, judicious and elegant, far beyond 
the general ideas and habits of the age. He required the 
librarian to keep up a correspondence with the most learned 
men in Europe, that he might have information of the state 
of science, and intelligence of the best works on any subject 
that should be published, and immediately purchase them. 
He gave him in charge to point out to the students those 
works which might assist them in their designs; and or- 



372 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

dered that the advantages of consulting the works here pre- 
served should be open to all, whether citizens or strangers. 
Such a regulation will now appear quite natural — one and 
the same thing with the founding of a library; but in those 
days it was not so. In a history of the Ambrosian Library, 
written (with the precision and elegance usual in that age) 
by one Pier-paolo Bosca, a librarian, after the death of 
Federigo, it is expressly noted as a remarkable fact, that, 
in this library, built by a private individual almost entirely 
at his own expense, the books were accessible to the view of 
all, and brought to any one who should demand them, with 
liberty to sit down and study them, and the provision of 
pen, ink, and paper, to take notes; while, in some other 
celebrated public libraries in Italy, the volumes were not 
only not visible, but concealed in closets, where they were 
never disturbed, except when the humanity, as he says, of 
the presidents prompted them sometimes to display them for 
a moment. As to accommodation and conveniences for study 
provided for those who frequented it, they had not the least 
idea of such a thing. So that, to furnish such libraries, was 
to withdraw books from the use of the public ; one of those 
means of cultivation, many of which were, and still are, em- 
ployed, that only serve to render the soil more sterile. 

It were useless to inquire what were the effects of this 
foundation of Borromeo on public education: it would be 
easy enough to demonstrate in two words, according to the 
general method of demonstration, that they were miraculous, 
or that they were nothing; but to investigate and explain, 
up to a certain point, what they really were, would be a 
work of much difficulty, little advantage, and somewhat ill- 
timed. Rather let us think what a generous, judicious, be- 
nevolent, persevering lover of the improvement of mankind 
he must have been, who planned such an undertaking — ^who 
planned it on so grand a scale, and who executed it in the 
midst of ignorance, inertness, and general contem_pt of all 
studious application, and, consequently, in spite of ' What 
does it matter f ' and ' There's something else to think about/ 
and, ' What a fine invention! ' and, *" This was certainly want- 
ing'/ and similar remarks, which, undoubtedly, will have 
been more in number than the scudi expended by him in the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 373 

undertaking, amounting to a hundred and five thousand, the 
greatest part of his property. 

To style such a man beneficent and liberal in a high de- 
gree, it would be unnecessary, perhaps, that he should have 
spent much in the immediate relief of the needy; and there 
are, besides, many in whose opinion expenditure of the char- 
acter we have described, and, indeed, I may say all expendi- 
ture, is the best and more beneficial almsgiving. But in 
Federigo's opinion, almsgiving, properly speaking, was a 
paran^ount duty; and here, as in everything else, his actions 
were in accordance with his principles. His life was one 
continual overflowing charity. On occasion of this very 
scarcity, to which our story has already alluded, we shall 
have presently to relate several traits which will exhibit the 
judgment and delicacy he knew how to employ even in his 
liberality. Of the many remarkable examples which his 
biographers have recorded of this virtue, we will here cite 
but one. Having heard that a certain nobleman was using 
artifices and compulsion to force into a convent one of his 
daughters who wished rather to be married, he had an inter- 
view with her father; and drawing from him the acknowl- 
edgment that the true motive of this oppression was the 
want of four thousand scudi, which, according to his idea, 
were necessary towards marrying his daughter suitably, 
Federigo immediately presented the required dowry. Some 
may perhaps think this an extravagant act of bounty, not 
well-judged, and too condescending to the foolish caprices 
of a vain nobleman; and that four thousand scudi might 
have been better employed in this or that manner. To 
which we have nothing to answer, excepting that it were 
devoutly to be wished that one could more frequently see 
excesses of a virtue so unfettered by prevailing opinion, 
(every age has its own,) and so free from the general tend- 
ency, as in this instance that must have been, which induced 
a man to give four thousand scudi, that a young person 
might not be made a nun. 

The inexhaustible charity of this man appeared, not only 
in his alm.sgiving, but in his whole behaviour. Easy of ac- 
cess to all, he considered a cheerful countenance and an 
affectionate courtesy particularl}^ due to those in the lower 



374 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ranks of lifej and the more so in proportion as they were 
little thought of by the world. Here, therefore, he had to 
combat with the gentlemen of the ne quid nimis school, who 
were anxious to keep him within limits, i. e., within their 
limits. One of these, on occasion of a visit to a wild and 
mountainous country, when Federigo was teaching some 
poor children, and during the interrogations and instruction 
was fondly caressing them, besought him to be more cautious 
in handling such children, as they were dirty and repelling: 
as if the worthy gentlemian supposed that Federigo had not 
discernmient enough to make the discovery, or acumen 
enough to suggest this recondite counsel for himself. Such, 
in certain circumstances of times and things, is the mis- 
fortune of men exalted to high stations, that while they so 
seldom find any one to inform them of their failings, there 
is no lack of persons courageous enough to reprove them 
for doing right. But the good Bishop, not without anger, 
replied : ' They are my lambs, and perhaps may never again 
see my face ; and would you not have me caress them ? ' 

Very seldom, however, did he exhibit any anger, being 
admired for his mild and imperturbable gentleness of be- 
haviour, which might be attributed to an extraordinarily 
happy temperament of mind ; while, in truth, it was the effect 
of constant discipline over a naturally hasty and passionate 
disposition. If ever he showed himself severe, nay, even 
harsh, it was towards those pastors under his authority 
whom he discovered guilty of avarice, or negligence, or any 
other conduct opposed to the spirit of their high vocation. 
Upon v/hat might affect his own interest or temporal glory, 
he never betokened either joy, regret, eagerness, or anxiety: 
wonderful indeed if these emotions were not excited in his 
mind; more wonderful if they were. Not only in the many 
conclaves at which he had assisted, did he acquire the repu- 
tation of ha/ing never aspired to that lofty post so desirable 
to ambition, and so terrible to piety; but on one occasion, 
when a colleague, who possessed considerable influence, came 
to offer him his vote and those of his (so, alas! it was 
termed) faction, Federigo refused the proposal in such a 
manner that his friend immediately abandoned the idea, and 
turned his views elsewhere. This same humility, this dread 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 375 

of pre-eminence, was equally apparent in the more comm.on 
occurrences of life. Careful and indefatigable in ordering 
and governing everything, where he considered it his duty 
to do so, he always shrank from intruding into the affairs 
of others, and even when solicited, refused, if possible, to 
interfere; — discretion and temperance far from common, as 
everybody knows^ in men as zealous in the cause of good as 
Federigo was. 

Were we to allow ourselves to prosecute the pleasing task 
of collecting together the remarkable points in his character, 
the result would certainly be a complication of virtues in 
apparent opposition to each other, and assuredly difficult to 
find combined. We cannot, however, omit to notice one 
more excellency in his excellent life: replete as it was with 
action, government, functions, instruction, audiences, dio- 
cesan visitations, journeys, and controversies, he not only 
found time for study, but devoted as much to this object as 
a professor of literature would have required. Indeed, 
among many other and various titles of commendation, he 
possessed in a high degree, among his contemporaries, that 
of a man of learning. 

We must not, however, conceal that he held with firm 
persuasion, and maintained, in fact, with persevering con- 
stancy, some opinions which, in the present day, would 
appear to every one rather singular than ill-founded; even 
to such as would be anxious to consider them sound. For 
any one who would defend him on this head, there is the 
current and comm^only received excuse, that they were the 
errors of the age, rather than his own; an excuse, to say 
the truth, which, when it results from the minute consid- 
eration of facts, may be vaHd and significant; but which 
generally, applied in the usual naked way,, and as we must 
do in this instance, com.es in the end to mean exactly noth- 
ing at all. And, besides, not wishing to resolve complicated 
questions with simple formulae, we vv^ill venture to leave this 
tmsolved; resting satisfied with having thus cursorily men- 
tioned, that in a character so admirable as a whole, we do 
not pretend to affirm that every particular was equally so, 
lest we should seem to have intended making a funeral 
oration. 



376 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

We shall not be doing injustice to our readers to suppose 
that some of them may inquire, whether this person has left 
any monument of so much talent and erudition. Whether 
he has left any ! The works remaining from him, great and 
small, Latin and Italian, published and manuscript, amount 
to about a hundred volumes, preserved in the library he 
himself founded: moral treatises, discourses, dissertations on 
history, sacred and profane antiquities, literature, arts, and 
various other subjects. 

— And however does it happen, — this inquirer may ask, — 
that so many works are forgotten, or at least so little known, 
so little sought after? How is it, that with such talents, 
such learning, such experience of men and things, such pro- 
found thought, such a sense of the good and the beautiful, 
such purity of mind, and so many other qualities which 
constitute the elegant author; how is it, that out of a hundred 
works, he has not left even one to be considered excellent 
by those who approve not of the whole, and to be known by 
title even by those who have never read it? How is it that 
all of them together have not sufficed, at least by their 
number, to procure for his name a literary fame among 
posterity ? — 

The inquiry is undoubtedly reasonable, and the question 
sufficiently interesting: because the reasons of this phe- 
nomenon are to be found, or, at least, must be sought for, 
in many general facts; and when found, would lead to the 
explanation of other similar phenomena. But they would 
be many and prolix : and what if they should not prove satis- 
factory? if they should make the reader turn away in dis- 
gust ? So that it will be better to resume our ' walk through ' 
the story, and instead of digressing more at lengthen the 
character of this wonderful man, proceed to observe him in 
action under the conduct of our anonymous author. 




CHAPTER XXIII 

[ARDINAL FEDERIGO was employed, according to 
his usual custom in every leisure interval, in study, 
until the hour arrived for repairing to the church for 
the celebration of Divine Service, when the chaplain and 
cross bearer entered with a disturbed and gloomy counte- 
nance. 

' A strange visitor, my noble Lord, — strange indeed ! ' 
' Who ? ' asked the Cardinal. 

' No less a personage than the Signor * * *' replied the 
chaplain; and pronouncing the syllables with a very signifi- 
cant tone, he uttered the name v/hich we cannot give to our 
readers. He then added : * He is here outside in person ; and 
demands nothing less than to be introduced to your illustrious 
Grace.* 

* He ! ' said the Cardinal, with an animated look, shutting 
his book, and rising from his seat ; ' let him come in ! — let 
him come in directly ! ' 

* But . , .' rejoined the chaplain, without attempting to 
move, 'your illustrious Lordship must surely be aware who 
he is : that outlaw, that famous . . .' 

• 'And is it not a most happy circumstance for a bishop, 
that such a man should feel a wish to come and seek an in- 
terview with him ? ' 

' But . . .' insisted the chaplain, ' we may never speak of 
certain things, because my Lord says that it is all nonsense : 
but, when it comes to the point, I think it is a duty . . , Zeal 
makes many enemies, my Lord ; and we know positively that 
more than one ruffian has dared to boast that some day or 
other . . / 

' And what have they done ? ' interrupted the Cardinal. 

' I say that this man is a plotter of mischief, a desperate 
character, who holds correspondence with the most violent 
desperadoes, and who may be sent . . / 

'Oh, what discipline is this,' again interrupted Federigo, 
smiling^ ' for the soldiers to exhort their general to cow- 

377 



378 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ardice? then resuming a grave and thoughtful air, he con- 
tinued : ' Saint Carlo would not have deliberated whether he 
ought to receive such a man: he w^ould have gone to seek 
him. Let him be admitted directly: he has already waited 
too long.' 

The chaplain moved tov/ards the door, saying in his heart: 
—There's no remedy: these saints are all obstinate. — 

Having opened the door, and surveyed the room where 
the Signor and his companions were, he saw that the latter 
had crowded together on one side, where they sat whispering 
and cautiously peeping at their visitor, while he was left 
alone in one corner. The chaplain advanced towards him, 
eying him guardedly from head to foot, and wondering what 
weapons he might have hidden under that great coat; think- 
ing, at the same time, that really, before admitting him, 
he ought at least to have proposed . . . but he could not re- 
solve what to do. He approached him, saying : * His Grace 
waits for your Lordship. Will you be good enough to come 
with me ? ' And as he preceded him through the little crowd, 
which instantly gave way for him, he kept casting glances 
on each side, which meant to say: What could I do? don't 
you know yourselves that he always has his own way? 

On reaching the apartment, the chaplain opened the door, 
and introduced the Unnamed. Federigo advanced to meet 
him w^ith a happy and serene look, and his hand extended, 
as if to welcome an expected guest, at the same time making 
a sign to the chaplain to go out, which was immediately 
obeyed. 

When thus left alone, they both stood for a moment silent 
and in suspense, though from vv^idely different feelings. The 
Unnamed, who had, as it were, been forcibly carried there 
by an inexplicable compulsion, rather than led by a deter- 
minate intention, now stood there, also as it were by com- 
pulsion, torn by two contending feelings : on the one side, a 
desire and confused hope of meeting with some alleviation 
of his inward torment; on the other, a feeling of self-rebuked 
shame at having come thither, like a penitent, subdued, and 
wretched, to confess himself guilty, and to make supplication 
to a man : he was at a loss for words, and, indeed, scarcely 
sought for them. Raising his eyes, however, to the Arch-= 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 379 

bishop's face, he became gradually filled with a feeling of 
veneration, authoritative, and at the same time soothing; 
which, while it. increased his confidence, gently subdued his 
haughtiness, and, without offending his pride, compelled it 
to give way, and imposed silence. 

The bearing of Federigo was, in fact, one which an- 
nounced superiority, and, at the same time, excited love. It 
was naturally sedate, and almost involuntarily commanding, 
his figure being not in the least bowed or wasted by age; 
while his solemn, yet sparkling eye, his open and thoughtful 
forehead, a kind of virginal floridness, which might be dis- 
tinguished even am^ong grey locks, paleness, and the traces 
of abstinence, meditation, and labour: in short, all his fea- 
tures indicated that they had once possessed that which is 
most strictly entitled beauty. The habit of serious and be- 
nevolent thought, the inward peace of a long life^ the love 
that he felt towards his fellow-creatures, and the uninter- 
rupted enjoyment of an ineffable hope, had now substituted 
the beauty (so to say) of old age, which shone forth more 
attractively from the magnificent simplicity of the purple. 

He fixed, for a moment, on the countenance of the Un- 
named, a penetrating look, long accustomed to gather from 
this index what was passing in the mind; and imagining he 
discovered, under that dark and troubled mien, something 
every moment more corresponding with the hope he had con- 
ceived on the first announcem.ent of such a visit, ^ Oh ! ' cried 
he, in an animated voice, ' what a welcome visit is this ! and 
how thankful I ought to be to you for taking such a step, al- 
though it may convey to me a little reproof ! ' 

* Reproof ! ' exclaimed the Signor, much surprised, but 
.soothed by his words and manner, and glad that the Car- 
dinal had broken the ice, and started some sort of conver- 
sation. 

' Certainly, it conveys to me a reproof,' replied the Arch- 
bishop, ' for allowing you to be beforehand with me when 
so often, and for so long a time, I might and ought to have 
come to you myself.' 

* You come to me ! Do you know v/ho I am ? Did they 
deliver in my name rightly ? ' 

' And the happiness I feel, and which must surely be evi- 



380 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

dent in my countenance, do you think I should feel it at the 
announcement and visit of a stranger? It is you who make 
me experience it; you, I say, whom I ought to have sought; 
you whom I have, at least, loved and wept over, and for 
whom I have so often prayed; you, among all my children, 
for each one I love from the bottom of my heart, whom I 
should most have desired to receive and embrace, if I had 
thought I might hope for such a thing. But God alone 
knows how to work wonders, and supplies the weakness and 
tardiness of His unworthy servants.' 

The Unnamed stood astonished at this warm reception, in 
language which corresponded so exactly with that which 
he had not yet expressed, nor, indeed, had fully determined 
to express; and, affected, but exceedingly surprised, he re- 
mained silent. ' Well ! ' resumed Federigo, still more affec- 
tionately, ' you have good news to tell me ; and you keep 
me so long expecting it ? ' 

' Good news ! I have hell in my heart ; and can I tell 
you any good tidings? Tell me, if you know, what good 
nev/s you can expect from such as I am ? ' 

* That God has touched your heart, and would make you 
His own,' replied the Cardinal, calmly. 

'God! God! God! If I could see Him! If I could 
hear Him ! Where is this God ? ' 

* Do you ask this ? you ? And who has Him nearer than 
you? Do you not feel Him in your heart, overcoming, agi- 
tating you, never leaving you at ease, and at the same time 
drawing you forward, presenting to your view a hope of 
tranquillity and consolation, a consolation which shall be full 
and boundless, as soon as you recognize Him, acknowledge, 
and implore Him ? ' 

* Oh, surely ! there is something within that oppresses, that 
consumes me! But God! If this be God, if He be such as 
they say, what do you suppose He can do with me?' 

These words were uttered with an accent of despair; 
but Federigo, with a solemn tone, as of calm inspiration, 
replied : ' What can God do with you ? What would He 
wish to make of you? A token of His power and goodness: 
He would acquire through you a glory, such as others could 
sot give Him. The world has long cried out against you, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 381 

hundreds and thousands of voices have declared their de- 
testation of your deeds . . .' (The Unnamed shuddered, and 
felt for a moment surprised at hearing such unusual lan- 
guage addressed to him, and still more surprised that he 
felt no anger, but rather, almost a relief.) 'What glory/ 
pursued Federigo, 'will thus redound to God! They may 
be voices of alarm, of self-interest; of justice, perhaps — a 
justice so easy! so natural! Some perhaps, yea, too many, 
may be voices of envy of your wretched power; of your 
hitherto deplorable sectirity of heart. But when you, your- 
self, rise up to condemn your past life, to become your own 
accuser, then ! then, indeed, God will be glorified ! And you 
ask what God can do with you. Who am I, a poor mortal, 
that I can tell you what use such a Being may choose hence- 
forth to make of you; how He can employ your impetuous 
will, your unwavering perseverance, w^hen He shall have 
animated and invigorated them with love, with hope, with 
repentance? Who are you, weak man, that you should 
imagine yourself capable of devising and executing greater 
deeds of evil, than God can make you will and accomplish 
in the cause of good? What can God do with you? Par- 
don you ! save you ! finish in you the work of redemption ! 
Are not these things noble and worthy of Him? Oh, just 
think ! if I, an humble and feeble creature, so worthless and 
full of myself — I, such as I am, long so ardently for your 
salvation, that, for its sake, I vv^ould joyfully give (and He 
is my witness ! ) the few days that still remain to me ; oh, 
think what, and how great, must be the love of Him, Who 
inspires me with this imperfect, but ardent affection; how 
must He love you, what must He desire for you. Who has 
bid and enabled me to regard you with a charity that con- 
sumes me ! ' 

While these words fell from his lips, his face, his ex- 
pression, his whole manner, evinced his deep feeling of 
what he uttered. The countenance of his auditor changed, 
from a wild and convulsive look, first to astonishment and 
attention, and then gradually yielded to deeper and less 
painful emotions; his eyes, which from infancy had been 
unaccustomed to weep, became suffused; and when the 
words ceased, he covered his face with his hands, and burst 



382 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

into a flood of tears. It was the only and most evident 

reply. 

' Great and good God ! ' exclaimed Federigo, raising his 
hands and eyes to heaven, ' what have I ever done, an un- 
profitable servant, an idle shepherd, that Thou shouldest call 
me to this banquet of grace ! that Thou shouldest make me 
worthy of being an instrument in so joyful a miracle! ' So 
saying, he extended his hand to take that of the Unnamed. 

' No ! ' cried the penitent nobleman ; ' no ! keep away from 
m.e : defile not that innocent and beneficent hand. You don't 
know all that the one you would grasp has committed.' 

* Suffer me,' said Federigo, taking it with affectionate vio- 
lence, * suffer me to press the hand which will repair so 
many wrongs, dispense so many benefits, comfort so many 
afiiicted, and be extended, disarmed, peacefully, and humbly, 
to so many enemies.' 

* It is too much! ' said the Unnamed, sobbing, Meave me, 
my Lord ; good Federigo, leave me ! A crowded assembly 
awaits you; so many good people, so many innocent crea- 
tures, so many come from a distance, to see you for once, 
to hear you : and you are staying to talk . . . with whom ! ' 

' We will leave the ninety and nine sheep,' replied the 
Cardinal ; ' they are in safety, upon the mountain : I wish 
to remain with that which was lost. Their minds are, per- 
haps, now more satisfied than if they were seeing their 
poor bishop. Perhaps God, Who has wrought in you this 
miracle of mercy, is diffusing in their hearts a joy of which 
they know not yet the reason. These people are, perhaps, 
united to us without being aware of it : perchance the Spirit 
may be instilling into their hearts an undefined feeling of 
charity, a petition which He will grant for you, an offering 
of gratitude of which you are, as yet, the unknown object.' 
So saying, he threw his arms round the neck of the Un- 
named, who, after attempting to disengage himself, and 
making a momentary resistance, yielded, completely over- 
come by this vehement expression of affection, embraced the 
Cardinal in his turn, and buried in his shoulder his trem- 
bling and altered face. His burning tears dropped upon the 
stainless purple of Federigo, while the guiltless hands of 
the holy bishop affectionately pressed those members, and 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 383 

touched that garment, which had been accustomed to hold 
the weapons of violence and treachery. 

Disengaging himself, at length, from this embrace, the 
Unnamed again covered his eyes with his hand, and raising 
his face to heaven, exclaimed ; ' God is, indeed, great ! God 
is, indeed, good ! I know m3^self now, now I understand 
what I am; my sins are present before me, and I shudder 
at the thought of myself; yet! . . . yet I feel an alleviation, 
a joy; yes, even a joy, such as I have never before known 
during- the whole of my horrible life! ' 

' It is a little taste,' said Federigo, ' which God gives you, 
to incline you to His service, and encourage you resolutely 
to enter upon the new course of life which lies before you, 
and in which you will have so much to undo, so much to 
repair, so much to mourn over ! ' 

/Unhappy man that I am ! ' exclaimed the Signor: *how 
many, oh, how many . . . things for which I can do nothing 
besides mourn ! But, at least, I have undertakings scarcely 
set on foot which I can break oft in the midst, if nothing 
more: one there is which I can quickly arrest, which I can 
easily undo, and repair.' 

Federigo listened attentively, v/hile the Unnamed briefly 
related, in terms of, perhaps, deeper execration than we 
have employed, his attempt upon Lucia, the sufferings and 
terrors of the unhappy girl, her importunate entreaties, the 
frenzy that these entreaties had aroused within him, and 
how she was still in the castle . . . 

' Ah, then ! let us lose no time ! ' exclaimed Federigo, 
breathless with eagerness and compassion. * You are in- 
deed blessed ! This is an earnest of God's forgiveness ! 
He makes you capable of becoming the instrument of safety 
to one whom you intended to ruin. God bless you ! Nay, 
He has blessed you ! Do you know where our unhappy pro- 
tegee comes from ? ' 

The Signor named Lucia's village. 

* It's not far from this,' said the Cardinal, ' God be 
praised; and probably . . .' So saying, he went towards a 
little table, and rang a bell. The cross-bearing chaplain 
immediately attended the summons with a look of anxiety, 
and instantly glanced towards the Unnamed. At the sight 



384 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

of his altered countenance, and his eyes still red with weep- 
ing, he turned an inquiring gaze upon the Cardinal; and 
perceiving, amidst the invariable composure of his counte- 
nance, a look of solemn pleasure and unusual solicitude, he 
would have stood with open mouth, in a sort of ecstasy, had 
not the Cardinal quickly aroused him from his contemplations, 
by asking whether, among the parish-priests who were as- 
sembled in the next room, there were one from * * *, 
' There is, your illustrious Grace,' replied the chaplain. 

* Let him come in directly/ said Federigo, ' and with him 
the priest of this parish.' 

The chaplain quitted the room, and on entering the hall 
where the clergy were assem.bled, all eyes were immediately 
turned upon him; while, with a look of blank astonishment, 
and a countenance in which was still depicted the rapture 
he had felt, he lifted up his hands, and waving them in the 
air, exclaimed, * Signori ! Signori ! hcec miUatio dexterce Ex- 
celsi/ And he stood for a moment without uttering another 
word. Then assuming the tone and language of a message, 
he added, * His most noble and very reverend Lordship de- 
sires to speak with the Signor Curate of this parish, and 
the Signor Curate of * * *. 

The first party summoned immediately came forward; 
and, at the same time, there issued from the midst of the 
crowd, an ' I ' drawled forth with an intonation of surprise. 

'Are you not the Signor Curate of * * *?/ replied the 
chaplain. 

'I ain; but . . . 

'His most noble and very reverend Lordship asks for 
you.' 

* Me ? ' again replied the same voice, clearly expressing 
in this monosyllable, 'What can they want with me?' But 
this time, together with the voice, came forth the living 
being, Don Abbondio himself, with an unwilling step, and 

' a countenance between astonishment and disgust. The chap- 
lain beckoned to him with his hand, as if he meant to say, 
* Come, let us go ; is it so very alarming ? ' and escorting 
them to the door, he opened it, and introduced them into 
^e apartment. 
' The Cardinal relinquished the hand of the Unnamed, witK 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 38S 

whom, meanwhile, he had been concerting arrangements, and 
withdrawing a Httle aside, beckoned to the curate of the 
village. Briefly relating the circumstances, he asked whether 
he could immediately find a trustworthy woman who would 
be willing tc go to the castle in a litter, and fetch away Lucia ; 
a kind and clever person, who would know how to conduct 
herself in so novel an expedition, and whose manners and 
language would be most likely to encourage and tranquilize 
the unfortunate girl, to whom, after so much anguish and 
alarm,' even liberation itself might be an additional cause of 
apprehension. After a moment's thought, the Curate said 
that he knew just the very person, and then took his de- 
parture. The Cardinal now calling to him the chaplain, 
desired him to have a litter and bearers immediately prepared 
and to see that two mules were saddled, for riders; and as 
soon as he had quitted the apartment, turned to Don Abbondio. 

This worthy gentleman, who had kept tolerably close to 
the Archbishop, that he might be at a respectful distance 
from the other Signor, and had, in the mean time, been cast- 
ing side glances, first to one, and then to the other, dubitating 
the while within himself what ever all this strange manoeu- 
vring might mean, now advanced a step forward, and, mak- 
ing a respectful bow, said, *I was told that your most 
illustrious Lordship wanted me; but I think there must be 
some misunderstanding.' 

* There is no misunderstanding, I assure you,' replied 
Federigo ; ' I have glad news to give you, and a pleasant and 
most agreeable task to impose upon you. One of your par- 
ishioners, whom you must have lamented as lost, Lucia 
Mondella, is again found, and is near at hand, in the house 
of my good friend here; and you will go now with him, and 
a w<5man, whom the Signor Curate of this place has gone to 
seek; you will go, I say, to fetch thence one of your own 
children, and accompany her hither.' 

Don Abbondio did his best to conceal the vexation — ^the 
what shall I say? — the alarm, the dismay excited by this 
proposal, or command; and unable any longer to restrain 
or dismiss a look of inexpressible discontent already gather- 
ing in his countenance, he could only hide it by a profound 
reverence, in token of obedient acceptance ; nor did he again 

HC 13— Vol. 21 



386 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

raise his face, but to make another equally profound obeisance 

to the Unnamed, with a piteous look, which seemed to say, 

* I am in your hands, have pity upon me ; Par cere suhjectisf 

The Cardinal then asked him what relations Lucia had. 

* Of near relations, with whom she lives, or might live, 
she has only a mother,' replied Don Abbondio. 

'Is she at home?' 

* Yes, my Lord/ 

* Well,' replied Federigo, * since this poor girl cannot be 
so directly restored to her own home, it will be a great con- 
solation to her to see her mother as quickly as possible; so, 
if the Signor Curate of this village doesn't return before I 
go to church, I request you will tell him to find a cart, or 
some kind of conveyance, and despatch a person of discretion 
to fetch her mother here.' 

* Had not / better go ? ' said Don Abbondio. 

* No, no, not you ; I've already requested you to undertake 
another commission,' replied the Cardinal. 

*I proposed it,' rejoined Don Abbondio, 'to prepare her 
poor mother for the news. She is a very sensitive woman, 
and it requires one who knows her disposition, and how to 
go to work with her the right way, or he will do her more 
harm than good.' 

'And therefore I have requested you to acquaint the Signor 
Curate of my wish that a proper person should be chosen 
for this office: you will do better elsewhere,' replied the 
Cardinal. And he would willingly have added: That 
poor girl at the castle has far more need of shortly seeing a 
knovv^n and trusted countenance, after so many hours of 
agony, and in such terrible ignorance as to the future. But 
this was not a reason to be so clearly expressed before the 
present third party. Indeed, the Cardinal thought it Very 
strange that it had not immediately occurred to Don Abbon- 
dio; that he had not thought of it himself; and the proffer 
he had made, and so warmly insisted upon, seemed so much 
out of place, that he could not help suspecting there must 
be something hidden beneath. He gazed upon his face, and 
there readily detected his fear of journeying with that terrible 
person, and of being his guest even for a few moments. 
Anxious, therefore, entirely to dissipate these cowardly appre- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 387 

hensions, yet unwilling to draw the curate aside and whisper 
with him in secret, while his new friend formed the third of 
their party, he judged that the best plan would be to do what, 
indeed, he would have done without such a motive, that is, 
address the Unnamed himself ; and thus Don Abbondio might 
at length understand, from his replies, that he was no longer 
an object of fear. He returned, therefore, to the Unnamed, 
and addressing him with that frank cordiality which may be 
met with in a new and powerful affection, as well as in an 
intimacy of long standing, ' Don't think,' said he, * that I 
shall be content with this visit for to-day. You will return, 
won't you, with this worthy clergyman ? ' 

^ Will I return ? ' replied the Unnamed. * Should you refuse 
me, I would obstinately remain outside your doer, like the 
beggar. I want to talk with you ; I want to hear you, to see 
you ; I deeply need you ! ' 

Federigo took his hand and pressed it, saying : * Do the 
clergyman of this village, then, and me, the favour of dining 
with us to-day. I shall expect you. In the mean while, I 
must go to offer up prayers and praises with the people; 
and you to reap the first-fruits of mercy/ 

Don Abbondio, at these demonstrations, stood like a cow- 
ardly child, who watches a person boldly petting and stroking 
a large, surly, shaggy dog, with glaring eyes, and a notoriously 
bad name for biting and growling, and hears its master 
say that his dog is a good and very quiet beast: he looks 
at the owner and neither contradicts nor assents; he looks 
at the animal, afraid to approach him for fear the * very 
gentle beast ' should show his teeth, were it only from habit ; 
and equally afraid to run away, lest he should be thought 
a coward; and can only utter an internal aspiration: — - 
Would that I were safe in my own house ! 

In quitting the apartment, in company with the Unnamed, 
whose hand he still grasped, the Cardinal cast another glance 
upon the poor man who remained behind, looking very awk- 
ward and mortified, and with a doleful expression of c@un- 
tenance. Thinking that possibly his vexation arose from 
being apparently overlooked, and left, as it were, in a corner, 
particularly in contrast with the notoriously wicked character 
now so warmly received and svelcomed, he turned towards 



388 ALESSANDRO MANZ0NI 

him in passing, aad htm^ back for a moment, and said to 
Mia, with a friendly smile : * Signor Curate, thou wert ever 
witk me in the house of our kind Father, but this , . . this 
one perierat, et inventus esi." 

' Oh, how glad I am to hear it ! ' said Don Abbondio, making 
a profound reverence to the two together. 

The Archbishop then went on, gave a slight push to the 
door, which was immediately opened from without by two 
servants who stood outside, and the notable pair stood before 
the longing eyes of the clergy assembled in the apartment. 
They gazed with interest upon their two countenances, 
both of which bore the traces of a very different, but equally 
profound emotion: a grateful tenderness, an humble joy, on 
Federigo's venerable features ; and on those of the Unnamed, 
confusion, tempered with consolation, a new and unusual 
modesty, and a feeling of contrition, through which the vigour 
of his wild and fiery temper was, nevertheless, still apparent. 
It was afterwards found that the passage in the prophet 
Isaiah had occurred to more than one of the spe<:tators: 
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together^ and the lion shall 
eat straw like the bullock, (Isa. Ixv. 25.) Behind them 
came Don Abbondio, to whom no one paid any attention. 

When they had reached the middle of the room, the Car- 
dinal's groom of the chamber entered on the opposite side, 
and informed his master that he had executed all the orders 
communicated to him by the chaplain; that the litter and 
mules were in readiness, and they only waited the arrival 
of the female whom the curate was to bring. The Cardinal 
bid him tell the priest, when he came back, that Don Abbondio 
wished to speak with him; and then ail the rest was left 
under the direction of the latter and the Unnamed, whom 
the Cardinal again shook warmly by the hand on taking 
leave, saying : ' I shall expect you.' Then, turning to salute 
Don Abbondio with a bow, he set off in the direction of the 
church, followed by the clergy, half grouped and half in 
procession, while the fellow-travellers remained alone in the 
apartment. 

The Unnamed stood wrapt up in his own thoughts, and 
knpaMent for the moment when he might go to liberate Ms 
Lucia from her sufferings and confinement, — his, now, ita 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 383 

a very different sense from that in which she was so the 
day before: and his face expressed a feeHng of intense agita- 
tion, which to Don Abbondio's suspicious eye, might easily 
appear something worse. He peeped and glanced at him 
from the corner of his eye, and longed to start some friendly 
conversation: — But what can I say to him? — thought he: — 
must I say again, I am glad? Glad of what? that having 
hitherto been a devil, he has at last resolved to become a 
gentleman, like others ? A fine compliment, indeed ! Eh, eh, 
eh ! however I may turn the words, / am glad can mean noth- 
ing else. And, after all, will it be true that he has become 
a gentleman ? so on a sudden ! There are so many displays 
made in the world, and from so many motives ! What do I 
know about it? And, in the mean time, I have to go with 
him : and to that castle ! oh, what a tale ! what a tale ! what 
a tale is this to tell ! who would have told me this, this morn- 
ing! Ah, if I can but escape in safety, my lady Perpetua 
shan't soon hear the end of it from me, for having sent me 
here by force, when there was no necessity for it, out of 
my own parish: with her fine plausible reasons, that all the 
priests, for many a mile round, would flock hither, even 
those who were further off than I; and that I mustn't be 
behindhand; and this, that, and the other; and then to em- 
bark me in a business of this sort ! O, poor me ! But I must 
say something to this man. — And he had just thought of that 
something, and was on the point of opening his mouth to 
say: — I never anticipated the pleasure of being thrown into 
such honourable company, — when the groom of the chamber 
entered, with the curate of the parish, who announced that 
the woman was w.aiting in the litter ; and then turned to Don 
Abbondio, to receive from him the further commission of 
the Cardinal, Don Abbondio delivered himself as well as 
he could in the confusion of mind under which he was labour- 
ing ; and then, drawing up to the groom, said to him : * Pray 
give me, at least, a quiet beast; for, to tell the truth, I am 
but a poor horseman.' 

* You may imagine,' replied the groomi, with a half smile : 
'it is the secretary's mule, who is a very learned man.' 

'That will do . . .' replied Don Abbondio, and he con- 
tinued to ruminate : — Heaven send me a good one. — 



390 ALESSANDEO MANZONI 

The Signer had readily set off the moment he heard the 
announcement; but on reaching the door, and perceiving 
that Don Abbondio was remaining behind, he stood still to 
wait for him. When he came up, hastily, with an apologizing 
look, the Signer bowed and made him pass on first, with a 
courteous and humble air, which somewhat reanimated the 
spirits of the unfortunate and tormented man. But scarcely 
had he set foot in the court-yard, when he saw a new object 
of alarm, which quickly dissipated all his reviving confidence ; 
he beheld the Unnamed go towards the corner, take hold 
of the barrel of his carabine with one hand, and of the strap 
with the other, and with a rapid motion, as if performing 
the military exercise, swing it over his shoulder, 

■ — Alas ! alas ! woe is me ! — thought Don Abbondio : — what 
would he do with that weapon ? Suitable sackcloth, truly ! 
fine discipline for a new convert ! And supposing some 
fancy should take him ? Oh, what an expedition ! what an 
expedition ! — 

Could this Signor have suspected for a moment v/hat 
Hnd of thoughts they were v/hich vv^ere passing through 
his companion's mind, it is difficult to say what he would 
not have dene to reassure him ; but he v/as far enough away 
from such a suspicion, and Don Abbondio carefully avoided 
any movemaent which would distmctly txpress — I don't trust 
your Lordship. — On reaching the doer into the street, they 
found the tv/o animals in readiness : the Unnam.ed mounted 
one, which was held for him b}^ an hostler. 

'Isn't it vicious?' said Don Abbondio to the valet, as he 
stood with one foot suspended en the stirrup, and the other 
still resting on the ground. 

' You m.ay go with a perfectly easy mind ; it's a very 
lamb/ replied the man, and Don Abbondio, grasping the 
saddle, and assisted by the groom, gradually mounted up- 
wards, and, at last, found himself safely seated on the 
creature's back. 

The litter, which stood a few paces in advance, and vv^as 
borne by two mules, moved forward at the word of the 
attendant, and the party set off. 

They had to pass before the church, which was full to 
overflowing with people; and through a little square, also 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 391 

swarming with the villagers, and newly arrived visitors, 
whom the building could not accommodate. The glad news 
had already spread; and on the appearance of the party, 
and more especially of him who, only a few hours before 
had been an object of terror and execration, but was now 
the object of joyful wonder, there arose from the crowd 
almost a murmur of applause; and as they made way for 
him, even their eagerness was hushed in the desire to ob- 
tain a'near view of him. The litter passed on, the Unnamed 
followed; and when he arrived before the open door of the 
church, took off his hat, and bowed his hitherto dreaded 
forehead, till it almost touched the animal's mane, amidst 
the murmur of a hundred voices, exclaiming, *God bless you ! ' 
Don Abbondio, also, took off his hat, and bending low, recom- 
mended himself to Heaven ; but hearing the solemn harmony 
of his brethren, as they chanted in chorus, he was so over- 
come with a feeling of envy, a mournful tenderness of spirit, 
and a sudden fervour of heart, that it was with difficulty he 
restrained his tears. 

When they got beyond the habitations into the open coun- 
try, and in the often entirely deserted windings of the road, 
a still darker cloud overspread his thoughts. The only object 
on which his eye could rest with any confidence, was the 
attendant on the litter, who, belonging to the Cardinal's 
household, must certainly be an honest mian; and who, be- 
sides, did not look like a coward. From time to time passen- 
gers appeared, sometimes even in groups, who were flocking 
to see the Cardinal, and this was a great relief to Don 
Abbondio; it was, however, but transitory, and he was 
advancing towards that tremendous valley, where he should 
meet none but the vassals of his companion; and what vas- 
sals ! He now more than ever longed to enter into conversa- 
tion with this companion, both to sound him a little more, 
and to keep him in good humour; but even this wish 
vanished on seeing him so completely absorbed in his own 
thoughts. He must then talk to himself; and we will pre- 
sent the reader with a part of the poor man's soliloquy 
during his journey, for it would require a volume to record 
the whole. 

' — ^It is a fine thing, truly, that saints as well as sinners 



392 ALESSANDBO MANZONI 

must have quicksilver in their compositions, and cannot be 
content with fussing about and busying themselves, but must 
also bring into the dance with them the whole world, if 
they can; and that the greatest busy-bodies must just come 
upon me, who never meddle with anybody, and drag me by 
the hair into their affairs; me, who ask for nothing but to 
be left alone ! That mad rascal of a Don Rodrigo ! What 
does he want to make him the happiest man in the world, if 
he had but the least grain of judgment? He is rich, he is 
young, he is respected and courted : he is sick with too much 
prosperity, and must needs go about making trouble for 
himself and his neighbour. He might follow the ways of 
Saint Michael ; oh, no ! my gentleman doesn't choose : he 
chooses to set up the trade of molesting women, the most 
absurd, the most vile, the most insane business in the world : 
he might ride to heaven in his carriage, and chooses rather 
to walk halting to the devil's dwelling. And this man? 
. , . And here he looked at him, as if he suspected he could 
hear his very thoughts. — This man ! after turning the world 
upside down with his wickedness, now he turns it upside 
down with his conversion ... if it prove really so. In 
the mean while, it falls to me to make the trial ! . . . So it 
is, that when people are born with this madness in their 
veins, they must always be making a noise! Is it so diffi- 
cult to act an honest part all one's life, as I have done? 
Oh, no, my good sir: they must kill and quarter, play the 
devil ... oh, poor me ! . . . and then comes a great stir 
even when doing penance. Repentance, when there is an 
inclination to it, can be performed at home, quietly, without 
so much show, without giving so much trouble to one's 
neighbours. And his illustrious Lordship, instantly, with 
open arms calling him his dear friend, his dear friend; 
and this man listens to all he says as if he had seen him 
work miracles; and then he must all at once come to a 
resolution, and rush into it hand and foot, one minute here, 
and the next there; we, at home, should call this precipita- 
tion. And to deliver a poor curate into his hands without 
the smallest security ! this may be called playing with a 
man at great odds. A holy bishop, as he is, ought to value 
his curates as the apple of his eye. It seems to me there 



r PROMESSI SPOSI 393 

might be a little moderation, a little prudence, a little charity 
along with sanctity . . . Supposing this should be all a mere 
show ? Who can tell all the intentic^.':' of men ? and particu- 
larly of such a man as this? To think that it is my lot to 
go with him to his own house! There may be some under- 
work of the devil here : oh, poor me ! it is best not to think 
about it. How is Lucia mixed up with all this? It is plain 
Don Rodrigo had some designs upon her: what people: and 
suppose it is exactly thus, how then has this man got her 
into his clutches ? Who knows, I wonder ? It is all a secret 
with my Lord; and to me, whom they are making trot about 
in this way, they don't tell a word. I don't care about know- 
ing other people's affairs; but when I have to risk my skin 
in the matter, I have a right to know something. If it be 
only to go and fetch away this poor creature, patience! 
though he could easily enough bring her straight away him- 
self. And besides, if he is really converted, if he has become 
a holy father, what need is there of me? Oh, what a chaos ! 
Well; it is Heaven's will it should be thus: it will be a very 
great inconvenience, but patience ! I shall be glad, too, for 
this poor Lucia: she also must have escaped some terrible 
issue: Heaven knows what she must have suffered: I pity 
her; but she was born to be my ruin ... At least, I wish 
I could look into his heart, and see what he is thinking about. 
Who can understand him? Just look, now; one minute he 
looks like Saint Antony in the desert, the next he is like 
Holof ernes himself. Oh, poor me! poor me! Well; Heaven 
is under an obligation to help me, since I didn't get myself 
into this danger with my own good will.-— 

In fact, the thoughts of the Unnamed might be seen, so 
to say, passing over his countenance, as in a stormy day the 
clouds flit across the face of the sun, producing every now 
and then an alternation of dazzling light and gloomy shade. 
His soul, still quite absorbed in reflection upon Federigo's 
soothing words, and, as it were, renewed and made young 
again with fresh life, now rose with cheerful hope at the 
idea of mercy, pardon, and love; and then again sank be- 
neath the weight of the terrible pas^t. He anxiously tried to 
select those deeds of iniquity which were yet r^jarable, and 
ikose which he couM still arrest in the mi^st of their prog- 



394 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ress; he considered what remedies would be most certain 
and expeditious, how to disentangle so many knots, what to 
do with so many accomplices; but it was all obscurity and 
difficulty. In this very expedition, the easiest of execution, 
and so near its termination, he went with a willingness 
mJngled with grief at the thought, that in the mean while 
the poor girl was suffering, God knev/ how much, and that 
he, while burning to liberate her, was all the while the 
cause of her suffering. At every turn, or fork in the road, 
the mule-driver looked back for direction as to the way: 
the Unnamed signified it with his hand, and at the same time 
beckoned to him to make haste. 

They entered the valley. How must Don Abbondio have 
felt then ! That renowned valley, of which he had heard 
such black and horrible stories, to be actually within it! 
Those men of notorious fame, the flower of the bravoes 
of Italy, men without fear and without mercy, — to see them 
in flesh and blood, — to meet one, two, or three, at every 
turn of a corner! They bowed submissively to the Signor; 
but their sunburnt visages ! their rough mustachios ! their 
large fierce eyes ! they seemed to Don Abbondio's mind to 
mean,— Shall we dispatch that Priest ? — So that, in a moment 
of extreme consternation, the thought rushed into his mind, 
—Would that I had m.arried them ! worse could not befall 
me. — In the mean while they went forward along a gravelly 
path by the side of the torrent: on one hand was a view of 
isolated and solid rocks; on the other, a population which 
would have made even a desert seem desirable: Dante was 
not in a worse situation in the midst of Malebolge. 

They passed the front of Malanotte; where bravoes were 
lounging at the door, who bowed to the Signor, and gazed 
at his companion and the litter. They knew not what to 
think; the departure of the Unnamed in the morning by 
himself had already seemed extraordinary, and his return 
was not less so. Was it a captive that he was conducting? 
And how had he accomplished it alone? And what was 
the meaning of a strange litter? And whose could this 
livery be? They looked and looked, but no one moved, 
because such was the command they read in his eye and 
^^pression. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 395 

They climbed the ascent, and reached the summit. The 
bravoes on the terrace and round the gate retired on either 
side to make room for him; the Unnamed motioned to them 
to retreat no farther, spurted forward and passed before 
the Htter, beckoned to the driver and Don Abbondio to fol- 
low him, entered an outer court, and thence into a second, 
went towards a small postern, made signs to a bravo, who 
was hastening to hold his stirrup, to keep back, and said to 
him, *You there, and no one nearer.' He then dismounted, 
and holding the bridle, advanced towards the litter, ad- 
dressed himself to the female who had just drawn back the 
curtain, and said to her in an undertone : ' Comfort her 
directly ; let her understand at once that she is at liberty, and 
among friends. God will reward you for it.' He then 
ordered the driver to open the door, and assist her to get 
out. Advancing, then, to Don Abbondio, with a look of 
greater serenity than the poor man had yet seen, or thought 
it possible he could see, on his countenance, in which there 
might now be traced joy at the good work which was at 
length so near its completion, he lent him his arm to dis- 
mount, saying to him at the same time, in a low voice: 
* Signer Curate, I do not apologize for the trouble you have 
had on my account ; you are bearing it for One who rewards 
bountifully, and for this His poor creature 1 ' 

This look, and these words, once more put some heart 
into Don Abbondio; and, drawing a long breath, which for 
an hour past had been striving ineffectually to find vent, 
he replied, whether or not in a submissive tone it need not 
be asked: * Is your Lordship joking with me? But, but, 
but, but ! . . .' And, accepting the hand which was so cour- 
teously offered, he slid down from the saddle as he best 
could. The Unnamed took the bridle, and handed it with his 
own to the driver, bidding him wait there outside for them. 
Taking a key from his pocket, he opened the postern, ad- 
mitted the curate and the woman, followed them in, 
advanced to lead the way, went to the foot of the stairs, 
and they all three ascended in silence. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

IUCIA had aroused herself only a short time before, 
and part of that time she had been striving to 
M awaken herself thoroughly, and to sever the dis- 
turbed dreams of sleep from the remembrances and images 
of a reality which too much resembled the feverish visions 
of sickness. The old woman quickly made up to her, and, 
with a constrained voice of humility, said: 'Ah! have you 
slept? You might have slept in bed: I told you so often 
enough last night.' And receiving no reply, she continued, 
in a tone of pettish entreaty: * Just eat something; do be 
prudent. Oh, how wretched you look! You must v/ant 
something to eat. And then if, when he comes back, he's 
angry with me ! ' 

* No, no ; I want to go away. I want to go to my mother. 
Your master promised I should; he said, to-morrow morn- 
ing. Where is he ? ' 

' He's gone out ; but he said he'd be back soon, and would 
do all you wished.' 

* Did he say so? did he say so? Very well; I wish to go 
to my mother, directly, directly.' 

And behold! the noise of footsteps was heard in the 
adjoining room; then a tap at the door. The old woman 
ran to it, and asked, * Who's there? ' 

* Open the door,' replied the well-known voice, gently. 
The old woman drew back the bolt, and, with a slight 

push, the Unnamed half opened the door, bid her come out, 
and hastily ushered in Don Abbondio and the good woman. 
He then nearly closed the door again, and waiting himself 
outside, sent the aged matron to a distant part of the castle, 
as he had before dismissed the other one, who was keeping 
watch outside. 

All this bustle, the moment of expectation, and the first 
appearance of strange figures, made Lucia's heart bound 
with agitation; for, if her present condition was intolerable, 
every change was an additional cause of alarm. She looked 

396 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 397 

Up, and beheld a priest and a woman; this somewhat reani- 
mated her; she looked more closely; is it he or not? At 
last, she recognized Don Abbondio, and remained with her 
eyes fixed, as if by enchantment. The female then drew 
near, and bending over her, looked at her compassionately, 
taking both her hands, as if to caress and raise her at the 
same time, and saying : ' Oh, my poor girl ! come with us, 
come with us.' 

* Who are you ? ' demanded Lucia ; but without listening 
to the reply, she again turned to Don Abbondio, who was 
standing two or three yards distant, even his countenance 
expressing some compassion; she gazed at him again, and 
exclaimed : ' You ! Is it you ! The Signor Curate ? Where 
are we ? . . . Oh, poor me ! I have lost my senses ! ' 

* No, no,* replied Don Abbondio, ' it is indeed I : take 
courage. Don't you see we are here to take you away? I 
am really your curate, come hither on purpose on horse- 
back . . ,' 

As if she had suddenly regained all her strength, Lucia 
precipitately sprang upon her feet: then again fixing her 
eyes on those two faces, she said: 'It is the Madonna, then, 
that has sent you.' 

' I believe indeed it is,' said the good woman. 

' But can we go away ? Can we really go away ? ' re- 
sumed Lucia, lowering her voice, and assuming a timid 
and suspicious look. 'And all these people? . . .' continued 
she, with her lips compressed, and quivering with fear and 
horror : 'And that Lord . . . that man ! . . . He did, in- 
deed, promise . . .' 

* He is here himself in person, came on purpose with us,' 
said Don Abbondio ; ' he is outside waiting for us. Let us 
go at once; we mustn't keep a man like him waiting.' 

At this moment, he of whom they were speaking opened 
the door, and showing himself at the entrance, came for- 
ward into the room. Lucia, who but just before had wished 
for him, nay, having no hope in any one else in the world, 
had wished for none but him, now, after having seen and 
listened to friendly faces and voices, could not restrain a 
sudden shudder: she started, held her breath, and throwing 
herself on the good woman's shoulder, buried her face in 



398 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

her bosom. At the first sight of that countenance, on which, 
the evening before, he had been unable to maintain a steady 
gaze, now rendered more pale, languid and dejected, by- 
prolonged suffering and abstinence, the Unnamed had sud- 
denly checked his steps; now, at the sight of her impulse 
of terror, he cast his eyes on the ground, stood for a moment 
silent and motionless, and then replying to what the poor 
girl had not expressed in words, * It is true,' exclaimed he ; 
* forgive me ! ' 

' He is come to set you free ; he's no longer what he was ; 
he has become good; don't you hear him asking your for- 
giveness ? ' said the good woman, in Lucia's ear. 

' Could he say more? Come, lift up your head; don't be a 
baby : we can go directly,' said Don Abbondio. Lucia raised 
her face, looked at the Unnamed, and seeing his head bent 
low, and his embarrassed and humble look, she was seized 
with a mingled feeling of comfort, gratitude, and pity, as 
she replied, * Oh, my Lord ! God reward you for this deed 
of mercy ! ' 

' And you a thousandfold, for the good you do me by 
these words.* 

So saying, he turned round, went towards the door, and 
led the way out of the room. Lucia, completely reassured, 
followed, leaning on the worthy female's arm, while Don 
Abbondio brought up the rear. They descended the stair- 
case, and reached the little door that led into the court. The 
Unnamed opened it, went towards the litter, and, with a 
certain politeness, almost mingled with timidity, (two novel 
qualities in him,) offered his arm to Lucia, to assist her to 
get in; and afterwards to the worthy dame. He then took 
the bridles of the two mules from the driver's hand, and 
gave his arm to Don Abbondio, who had approached his 
gentle steed. 

* Oh, what condescension ! ' said Don Abbondio, as he 
mounted much more nimbly than he had done the first time; 
and as soon as the Unnamed was also seated, the party 
resumed their wa}^ The Signor's brow was raised: his 
countenance had regained its customary expression of 
authority. The ruffians whom they passed on their way, 
discovered, indeed, in his face the marks of deep^ thought, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 399 

and an extraordinary solicitude; but they neither under- 
stood, nor could understand, more about it. The}'- knew 
not yet anything of the great change which had taken place 
in their master; and, undoubtedly, none of them would have 
divined it merely from conjecture. 

The good woman immediately drev/ the curtains over the 
little windows; and then, affectionately taking Lucia's 
hands, she applied herself to comfort her with expressions 
of pity, congratulation, and tenderness. Seeing, then, that 
not only fatigue from the suffering she had undergone, but 
the perplexity and obscurity of all that had happened, pre- 
vented the poor girl from being sensible of the joy of her 
deliverance, she said all she could think of most likely to 
recall her recollection, and to clear up, and set to rights, so 
to say, her poor scattered thoughts. She named the village 
she came from, and to which they were now going. 

* Yes ! ' said Lucia, who knew how short a distance it was 
from her own. * Ah, most holy Madonna, I praise thee ! 
My mother ! my mother ! ' 

' We will send to fetch her directly,' said the good wom.an, 
not knowing that it was already done. 

* Yes, yes, and God will reward you for it . . . And you, 
who are you? How have you come . . / 

* Our Curate sent me,' said the good woman, * because 
God has touched this Signer's heart, (blessed be His name !) 
and he came to our village to speak to the Signor Cardinal 
Archbishop, for he is there in his visitation, that holy man 
of God; and he had repented of his great sins, and wished 
to change his life; and he told the Cardinal that he had 
caused a poor innocent to be seized, meaning you, at the 
instigation of another person, Vv^ho had no fear of God; but 
the Curate didn't tell me who it could be.' 

Lucia raised her eyes to heaven. 

* You know who it was, perhaps,' continued the good 
woman. *Well; the Signor Cardinal thought that, as there 
was a young girl in the question, there ought to be a female 
to come back with her; and he told the Curate to look for 
one; and the Curate, in his goodness, came to me . . .' 

* Oh, the Lord recompense you for your kindness ! ' 

* Well, just listen to me, my poor child! And the Signor 



400 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Curate bid me encourage you, and try to comfort you 
directly, and point out to you how the Lord has saved you 
by a miracle . . / 

* Ah yes, by a miracle indeed ; through the intercession of 
the Madonna ! ' 

'Well, that you should have a right spirit, and forgive 
him who has done you this wrong, and be thankful that God 
has been merciful to him, yes, and pray for him too; for, 
besides that you will be rewarded for it, you will also find 
your heart lightened/ 

Lucia replied with a look which expressed assent as clearly 
as words could have done, and with a sweetness which words 
could not have conveyed. 

' Noble girl ! ' rejoined the woman. ' And your Curate, 
too, being at our village, (for there are numbers assembled 
from all the country round to elect four public officers,) the 
Signor Cardinal thought it better to send him with us; but 
he has been of little use: I had before heard that he was a 
poor-spirited creature; but, on this occasion, I couldn't help 
seeing that he was as frightened as a chicken in a bundle 
of hemp.' 

'And this man . . .' asked Lucia, 'this person who has 
become good . . . who is he ? ' 

' What ! don't you know him ? * said the good woman, 
mentioning his name. 

' Oh, the mercy of the Lord ! ' exclaimed Lucia. How 
often had she heard that name repeated with horror in more 
than one story, in which it always appeared as, in other 
stories, that of the monster Orcus ! And at the thought of 
having once been in his dreaded power, and being now 
under his merciful protection — at the thought of such fear- 
ful danger, and such unlooked-for deliverance; and at the 
remxcmbrance of whose face it was that had at first appeared 
to her so haughty, afterwards so agitated, and then so hum- 
bled, she remained in a kind of ecstasy, only occasionally 
repeating, ' Oh, what a m^ercy ! ' 

' It is a great mercy, indeed ! ' said the good woman. * It 
will be a great relief to half the world, to all the country 
rotmd. To think how many people he kept in fear ; and now, 
as our Curate told me •; .», .. and then, only to see his 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 401 

face, he is become a saint ! And the fruits are seen so 
directly/ 

To assert this worthy person did not feel much curiosity 
to know rather more explicitly the wonderful circumstances 
in which she was called upon to bear a part, would not be 
the truth. But we must say, to her honour, that, restrained 
by a respectful pity for Lucia, and feeling, in a manner, the 
gravity and dignity of the charge which had b^een entrusted 
to her,' she never even thought of putting an indiscreet or 
idle question; throughout the whole journey, her words 
were those of comfort and concern for the poor girl. 

' Heaven knows how long it is since you have eaten any- 
thing ! ' 

* I don't remember . . . not for some time/ 

* Poor thing ! you must want something to strengthen 
you?' 

* Yes,' replied Lucia, in a faint voic^* 

' Thank God, we shall get something at home directly. 
Take heart, for it's not far now/ 

Lucia then sank languidly to the bottom of the litter, as if 
overcome with drowsiness, and the good woman left her 
quietly to repose. 

To Don Abbondio the return was certainly not so harass- 
ing as the journey thither not long before; but, nevertheless, 
even this was not a ride of pleasure. When his overwhelm- 
ing fears had subsided, he felt, at first, as if relieved from 
every burden; but very shortly a hundred other fancies 
began to haunt his imagination; as the ground whence a 
large tree has been uprooted remains bare and empty for a 
time, but is soon abundantly covered with weeds. He had 
become more sensitive to minor causes of alarm; and in 
thoughts of the present, as well as the future, failed not to 
find only too many materials for self -torment. He felt now, 
much more than in coming, the inconveniences of a mode 
of travelling to which he was not at all accustomed, and 
particularly in the descent from the castle to the bottom 
of the valley. The mule-driver, obedient to a sign from the 
Unnamed, drove on the animals at a rapid pace; the two 
riders followed in a line behind, with corresponding speedj 
so thzti ill stmdry steep plac^, thfe unfortunate Don Ab- 



402 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

bondio, as if forced up by a lever behind, rolled forwards, 
and was obliged to keep himself steady by grasping the 
pommel of the saddle; not daring to request a slower pace, 
and anxious, also, to get out of the neighbourhood as quickly 
as he could. Besides this, wherever the road was on an 
eminence, on the edge of a steep bank, the mule, according 
to the custom of its species, seemed as if aimiing, out of 
contempt, always to keep on the outside, and to set its feet 
on the very brink; and Don Abbondio saw, almost perpen- 
dicularly beneath him, a good leap, or, as he thought, a 
precipice. — Even you, — said he to the animal, in his heart, — 
have a cursed inclination to go in search of dangers, when 
there is such a safe and wide path.— And he pulled the bridle 
to the opposite side, but in vain; so that, grumbling with 
vexation and fear, he suffered himself, as usual, to be guided 
at the will of others. The ruffians no longer gave him so 
much alarm, now that he knew for certain how their m.aster 
regarded them. — But, — reflected he, — if the news of this 
grand conversion should get abroad among them while we 
are still here, who knows how these fellows would take it? 
Who knows what might arise from it? What, if they should 
get an idea that I am come hither as a missionary ! Heaven 
preserve me ! they would martyr me ! — The haughty brow 
of the Unnamed gave him no uneasiness. — To keep those 
visages there in awe, — thought he, — it needs no less than 
this one here; I understand that myself; but why has it 
fallen to my lot to be thrown amongst such people? — 

But enough; they reached the foot of the descent, and 
at length also issued from the valley. The brow of the Un- 
named became gradually smoother. Don Abbondio, too, 
assumed a more natural expression, released his head some- 
what from imprisonment between his shoulders, stretched his 
legs and arms, tried to be a little more at his ease, which, in 
truth, made him look like a different creature, drew his breath 
more freely, and, with a calmer mind, proceeded to contem- 
plate other and remoter dangers.- — What will that villain 
of a Don Rodrigo say? To be left in this way, wronged, 
and open to ridicule; just fancy whether that won't be a bit- 
ter dose. Now's the time when he'll play the devil out- 
right. It remains to be seen whether he won't be angry v/ith 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 403 

me, because I have been mixed up with this business. If 
he has already chosen to send these two demons to meet me 
on the high road with such an intimation, what will he do 
now, Heaven knows ! He can't quarrel with his illustrious 
Lordship, for he's rather out of his reach; he'll be obliged 
to gnaw the bit with him. But all the v/hile the venom will 
be in his veins, and he'll be sure to vent it upon somebody. 
How will all these things end? The blow must always fall 
somewhere; the lash must be uplifted. Of course, his illus- 
trious Lordship intends to place Lucia in safety: that other 
unfortunate misguided youth is beyond reach, and has already 
had his share; so behold the lash must fall upon my shoul- 
ders. It will indeed be cruel, if, after so many inconveniences 
and so much agitation, without my deserving it, too, in the 
least, I should have to bear the punishment. What will his 
most illustrious Grace do now to protect m.e, after having 
brought me into the dance? Can he ensure that this cursed 
wretch won't play me a worse trick than before? And, 
besides, he has so man)^ things to think of ; he puts his hand 
to so many businesses. How can he attend to all? Matters 
are sometim_es left more entangled than at first. Those who 
do good, do it in the gross; when they have enjoyed this 
satisfaction, they've had enough, and won't trouble them- 
selves to look after the consequences; but they who have 
such a taste for evil-doings, are much more diligent; they 
follow it up to the end, and give themselves no rest, because 
they have an ever-devouring canker within them. Must I go 
and say that I came here at the express command of his 
illustrious Grace, and not with my own good will? That 
would seem as if I favoured the wicked side. Oh, sacred 
Heaven ! I favour the wicked side ! For the pleasure it 
gives me! Well; the best plan will be to tell Perpetua the 
case as it is, and then leave it to her to circulate it, provided 
my Lord doesn't take a fancy to make the whole matter 
public, and bring even me into the scene. At any rate, as 
soon as ever v^e arrive, if he's out of church, I'll go and take 
my leave of him as quickly as possible ; if he's not, I'll leave 
an apology, and go off home at once. Lucia is well attended 
to ; there's no need for me ; and after so much trouble, I, too, 
may claim a little repose. And besides . . . v/hat if my 



404 ALESSANI>RO MANZONI 

Lord should feel some curiosity to know the whole history, 
and it should fall to me to give an account of that wedding 
business ! This is all that is wanting to complete it. And 
if he should come on a visit to my parish? . . . Oh, let it 
be what it will, I will not trouble myself about it before- 
hand; I have troubles enough already. For the present, 1 
shall shut myself up at home. As long as his Grace is in 
this neighbourhood, Don Rodrigo won't have the face to 
make a stir. And afterwards . . . oh, afterwards ! Ah, I 
see that my last years are to be spent in sorrow! — 

The party arrived before the services in the church were 
over; they passed through the still assembled crowd, which 
manifested no less emotion than on the former occasion, 
and then separated. The two riders turned aside into a 
small square, at the extremity of which stood the Curate's 
residence, while the litter went forward to that of the good 
woman. 

Don Abbondio kept his word: scarcely dismounted, he 
paid the most obsequious compliments to the Unnamed, and 
begged him to make an apology for him to his Grace, as he 
must return immediately to his parish on urgent business. 
He then went to seek for what he called his horse, that is 
to say, his walking-stick, which he had left in a corner of the 
hall, and set off on foot. The Unnamed remained to wait till 
the Cardinal returned from church. 

The good woman, having accommodated Lucia with the 
best seat in the best place in her kitchen, hastened to pre- 
pare a little refreshment for her, refusing, with a kind of 
rustic cordiality, her reiterated expressions of thanks and 
apology. 

Hastily putting some dry sticks under a vessel, which she 
had replaced upon the fire, and in which floated a good 
capon, she quickly made ^ the broth boil; and then, filling 
from it a porringer, already furnished with sops of bread, 
she was at length able to offer it to Lucia. And on seeing 
the poor girl refreshed at every spoonful, she congratulated 
herself aloud, that all this had happened on a day when, as 
she said, the cat was not sitting on the hearth-stone. *Every- 
body contrives to set out a table to-day,' added she, 'unless 
it be those poor creatures who can scarcely get bread of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 405 

vetches, and a polenta of millet; however, they all hope to 
beg something to-day, from such a charitable Signor. We, 
thank Heaven, are not so badly off : what with my husband's 
business, and a little plot of ground, we can live very well, 
so that you needn't hesitate to eat with a good appetite; 
the chicken will soon be done, and you can then refresh 
yourself with something better/ And, receiving the little 
porringer from her hand, she turned to prepare the dinner, 
and to set out the table for the family. 

Invigorated in body, and gradually revived in heart, Lucia 
now began to settle her dress, from an instinctive habit of 
cleanliness and modesty : she tied up and arranged afresh 
her loose and dishevelled tresses, and adjusted the hand- 
kerchief over her bosom, and around her neck. In doing 
this, her fingers became entangled in the chaplet she had 
hung there: her eye rested upon it; aroused an instan- 
taneous agitation in her heart; the remembrance of her 
vow, hitherto suppressed and stifled by the presence of so 
many other sensations, suddenly rushed upon her mind, and 
presented itself clearly and distinctly to her view. The 
scarcely recovered powers of her soul were again at once 
overcome; and had she not been previously prepared by a 
life of innocence, resignation, and confiding faith, the con- 
sternation she experienced at that moment would have 
amounted to desperation. After a tumultuous burst of such 
thoughts as were not to be expressed in words, the only ones 
she "Could form in her mind were, — Oh, poor me, whatever 
have I done ! — 

But scarcely had she indulged the thought, when she felt 
a kind of terror at having done so. She recollected all the 
circumstances of the vow, her insupportable anguish, her 
despair of all human succour, the fervency of her prayer, 
the entireness of feeling w^th which the promise had been 
made. And after having obtained her petition, to repent 
of her promise seemed to her nothing less than sacrilegious 
ingratitude and perfidy towards God and the Virgin; she 
imagined that such unfaithfulness would draw down upon 
her new and more terrible misfortunes, in which she could 
not find consolation even in prayer; and she hastened to 
abjure her momentary regret. Reverently taking the rosary 



406 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

from her neck, and holding it in her trembling hand, she 
confirmed and renewed the vow, imploring, at the same time, 
with heartrending earnestness, that strength might be given 
her to fulfill it ; and that she might be spared such thoughts 
and occurrences as would be likely, if not to disturb her 
resolution, at least to harass her beyond endurance. The 
distance of Renzo, without any probability of return, that 
distance which she had hitherto felt so painful, now seemed 
to her a dispensation of Providence, who had made the two 
events work together for the same end; and she thought to 
find in the one a motive of consolation for the other. And, 
following up this thought, she began representing to herself 
that the same Providence, to complete the work, would 
know what means to employ to induce Renzo himself to be 
resigned, to think no more . . . But scarcely had such an 
idea entered her mind, when all was again overturned. The 
poor girl, feeling her heart still prone to regret the vow, 
again had recourse to prayer, confirmation of the promise, 
and inward struggles, from which she arose, if we may be 
allowed the expression, like the wearied and wounded victor 
from his fallen enemy. 

At this moment she heard approaching footsteps and 
joyous cries. It was the little family returning from church. 
Two little girls and a young boy bounded into the house, 
who, stopping a moment to cast an inquisitive glance at 
Lucia, ran to their mother, and gathered around her; one 
inquiring the name of the unknown guest, and how, and 
why; another attempting to relate the wonderful things they 
had just witnessed; while the good woman replied to each 
and all, * Be quiet, be quiet.' With a more sedate step, but 
with cordial interest depicted on his countenance, the master 
of the house then entered. He was, if we have not yet said 
so, the tailor of the village and its immediate neighbour- 
hood ; a man who knew how to read, who had, in fact, read 
more than once // Leggendario de' Santi, and / Reali di 
Francia, and who passed among his fellow-villagers as a 
man of talent and learning; a character, however, which 
he modestly disclaimed, only saying, that he had mistaken his 
vocation, and that, had he applied himself to study, instead 
of so many others . . . and so on. With all this, he was the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 407 

best-tempered creature in the world. Having been present 
when his wife was requested by the Curate to undertake her 
charitable journey, he had not only given his approbation, 
but would also have added his persuasion, had it been neces- 
sary. And now that the services, the pomp, the concourse, 
and aboye all, the sermon of the Cardinal, had, as the saying 
is, elevated all his best feelings, he returned home with eager 
anticipations, and an anxious desire to know how the thing 
had succeeded, and to find the innocent young creature safe, 

' See, there she is ! * said his good wife, as he entered, 
pointing to Lucia, Avho blushed, and rose from her seat, be- 
ginning to stammer forth some apology. But he, advancing 
towards her, interrupted her excuses, congratulating her on 
her safety, and exclaiming, * Welcom.e, welcome ! You are 
the blessing of Heaven in this house. How glad I am to see 
you here ! I was pretty sure you would be brought out 
safely; for Tve never found that the Lord began a miracle 
without bringing it to a good end; but I'm glad to see you 
here. Poor girl ! but it is indeed a great thing to have re- 
ceived a miracle ! ' 

Let it not be thought that he was the only person who 
thus denominated this event, because he had read the 
Legendary; as long as the remembrance of it lasted, it was 
spoken of in no other terms in the whole village, and 
throughout the neighbotirhood. And, to say truth, consid- 
ering its attendant and following consequences, no other 
name is so appropriate. 

Then, sidling up to his wife, who v/as taking the kettle 
off the hook over the fire, he whispered, * Did everything go 
on v/ell ? ^ 

' Very well ; I'll tell you afterw^ards.' 

' Yes, yes, at your convenience.' 

Dinner now being quickly served up, the mistress of the 
house went up to Lucia, and leading her to the table, made 
her take a seat ; then cutting off a wing of the fowl, she set 
it before her, and she and her husband sitting down, they 
both begged their dispirited and bashful guest to m.ake her- 
self at home, and take something to eat. Between every 
mouthful, the tailor began to talk with great eagerness, in 
spite of the interruptions of the children, who stood round 



408 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

the table to their meal^ and who, in truth, had seen too many 
extraordinary things, to play, for any length of time, the 
part of mere listeners. He described the solemn ceremonies, 
and then passed on to the miraculous conversion. But that 
which had made the most impression upon him, and to which 
he most frequently returned, was the Cardinal's sermon. 

' To see him there before the altar/ said he, * a gentleman 
like him_, like a Curate . . .' 

* And that gold thing he had on his head . . / said a little 
girl. 

* Hush. To think, I say, that a gentleman like him, such 
a learned man, too, that from what people say, he has read 
all the books there are in the world; a thing which nobody 
else has ever done^ not even in Milan — to think that he knew 
how to say things in such a way, that every one under- 
stood . . .' 

* Even I understood very well,' said another little prattler. 
Hold your tongue; what may you have understood, I 

wonder ? ' 

* I understood that he was explaining the Gospel, instead 
of the Signor Curate.' 

* Well, be quiet. I don't say those who know something, 
for then one is obliged to understand; but even the dullest 
and most ignc^rant could follow out the sense. Go now and 
ask them if they could repeat the words that he spoke: I'll 
engage they could not remember one; but the meaning they 
will have in their heads. And without ever mentioning the 
name of that Signor, how easy it was to see that he was 
alluding to him ! Besides, to understand that, one had only 
to observe him with the tears standing in his eye. And 
then the whole church began to weep . . .' 

*Yes, indeed, they did,' burst forth the little boy; 'but 
why were they all crying in that way, like children ? ' 

' Hold your tongue. Surely there are some hard hearts in 
this country. And he made us see so well, that though 
there is a famine here, we ought to thank God, and be 
content; do whatever we can, work industriously, help one 
another, and then be content, because it is no disgrace to 
suffer and be poor; the disgrace is to do evil. And these 
are not only fine words; for everybody?; knows that he lives 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 409 

like a poor man himself, and takes the bread out of his 
own mouth to give to the hungry, when he might be enjoy- 
ing goad times better than any one. Ah ! then it gives one 
satisfaction to hear a man preach: not Hke so many others: 
" Do what I say, and not what I do." And then he showed 
us that even those who are not what they call gentlemen, 
if they have more than they actually want, are bound to 
share it with those who are suffering/ 

Here he interrupted himself, as if checked by some 
thought. He hesitated a moment ; then filling a platter from 
the several dishes on the table, and adding a loaf of bread, 
he put it into a cloth, and taking it by the four corners, said 
to his eldest girl: 'Here, take this/ He then put into her 
other hand a little flask of wine, and added: ' Go down to the 
widow Maria, leave her these things, and tell her it is to make 
a little feast with her children. But do it kindly and nicely, 
you know ; that it may not seem as if you were doing her a 
charity. And don't say anything, if you meet any one; 
and take care you break nothing/ 

Lucia's eyes glistened, and her heart glowed with tender 
emotion; as from the conversation she had already heard, 
she had received more comfort than an expressly consola- 
tory sermon could possibly have imparted to her. Her 
mind, attracted by these descriptions, these images of pomp, 
and these emotions of piety and wonder, and sharing in 
the very enthusiasm of the narrator, was detached from the 
consideration of its own sorrows ; and on returning to them, 
found itself strengthened to contemplate them. Even the 
thought of her tremendous sacriflce, though it had not lost 
its bitterness, brought with it something of austere and 
solemn joy. 

Shortly afterwards, the Curate of the village entered, 
and said that he was sent by the Cardinal to inquire after 
Lucia, and to infarm her that his Grace wished to see her 
some time during the day; and then, in his Lardship's 
name, he returned many thanks to the worthy couple. 
Surprised and agitated, the three could scarcely find words 
to reply to such messages Irojn so great a personage. 

'And your mother hasn't yet arrived?' said the Curate 
to Luda. 



410 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

* My mother ! * exclaimed the poor girl. Then hearing 
from him how he had been sent to fetch her by the order and 
suggestion of the Archbishop, she drew her apron over 
her eyes, and gave v/ay to a flood of tears, V\^hich continued 
to flow for some time after the Curate had taken his leave. 
When, however, the tumultuous feelings which had been 
excited by such an announcement began to yield to more 
tranquil thoughts, the poor girl remembered that the now 
closely impending happiness of seeing her mother again, 
a happiness so unhoped-for a few hours previous, was what 
she had expressly imiplored in those very hours, and almost 
stipulated as a condition of her vow. Bring me in safety 
to my mother, she had said; and these words now pre- 
sented themselves distinctly to her memory. She strength- 
ened herself more than ever in the resolution to maintain 
htr promise, and afresh and more bitterly lam.ented the 
struggle and regret she had for a moment indulged. 

Agnese, indeed, while they were talking about her, was 
but a very little way off. It may easily be imagined how 
the poor woman felt at this unexpected summons, and at 
the announcement, necessarily defective and confused, of 
an escaped but fearful danger,— an obscure event, which 
the messenger could neither circumstantiate nor explain, 
and of which she had not the slightest ground of explana- 
tion in her own previous thoughts. After tearing her hair, 
— after frequent exclamations of ' Ah, my God ! Ah, Ma- 
donna ! ' — after putting various questions to the messenger 
which he had not the means of satisfying, she threw herself 
impetuously into the vehicle, continuing to utter, on her 
way, numberless ejaculations and useless inquiries. But 
at a certain point she met Don Abbondio, trudging on, step 
after step, and before each step, his walking-stick. After 
an ' oh ! ' from both parties, he stopped ; Agnese also stopped 
and dismounted; and drav/ing him apart into a chestnut- 
grove on the roadside, she there learnt from Don Ab- 
bondio all that he had been able to ascertain, and observe. 
The thing w^as not clear; but at least Agnese was assured 
that Lucia was in safety; and she again breathed freely. 

After this Don Abbondio tried to introduce another sub- 
ject, and give her miinute instructions as to how she ought 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 411 

to behave before the Archbishop, if, as was likely, he should 
wish to see her and her daughter; and, above all, that it 
would not do to say a word about the wedding . . , But 
Agnese, perceiving that he was only speaking for his own 
interest, cut him short, without promising, indeed without 
proposing, anything, for she had something else to think 
about; and immediately resumed her journey. 

At length the cart arrived, and stopped at the tailor's 
house. Lucia sprang up hastily: Agnese dismounted and 
rushed impetuously into the cottage, and, in an instant, they 
were locked in each others arms. The good dame, who 
alone was present, tried to encourage and calm them, and 
shared with them in their joy; then, with her usual discre- 
tion, she left them for a while alone, saying that she would 
go and prepare a bed for them, for which, indeed, she had 
the means, though, in any case, both she and her hus- 
band would much rather have slept upon the ground, than 
suffer them to go in search of shelter elsewhere for that 
night. 

The first burst of sobs and embraces being over, Agnese 
longed to hear Lucia's adventures, and the latter began, 
mournfully, to relate them. But, as the reader is aware, 
it was a history which no one knew fully; and to Lucia 
herself there were some obscure passages, which were, in 
fact, quite inextricable: more particularly the fatal coin- 
cidence of that terrible carriage being in the road, just 
when Lucia was passing on an extraordinary occasion. 
On this point, both mother and daughter were lost in con- 
jecture, without ever hitting the mark, or even approach- 
ing the real cause. 

As to the principal author of the plot, neither one nor 
the other could for a moment doubt but that it was Don 
Rodrigo. 

' Ah, the black villain ! ah, the infernal firebrand ! ' ex- 
claimed Agnese : ' but his hour will come. God will reward 
him according to his works ; and then he, too, will feel . , / 

' No, no, motner ; no ! ' interrupted Lucia ; * don't pre- 
dict suffering for him; don't predict it to any one! If you 
knew what it was to suffer! If you had tried it! No, no! 
rather let us pray God and the Madonna for him : that God 



412 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

would touch his hearty as he has done to this other poor 
Signer, who urns worse than he is, and is nov/ a saint.' 

The shuddering horror that Lucia felt in retracing such 
recent and cruel scenes, made her more than once pause 
in the midst; more than once she said she had not courage 
to go on; and, after many tears, with difficulty resumed her 
account. But a different feeling checked her at a certain 
point of the narration, — at the mention of the vow. The 
fear of being blamed by her mother as imprudent and precipi- 
tate; or that, as in the affair of the wedding, she should bring 
forward one of her broad rules of conscience, and try to 
make it prevail; or that, poor woman, she should tell it to 
some one in confidence, if nothing else, to obtain light and 
counsel, and thus make it publicly known, from the bare 
idea of which Lucia shrank back with insupportable shame; 
together with a feeling of present shame, an inexplicable 
repugnance to speak on such a subject; — all these things 
together determined her to maintain absolute silence on this 
important circumstance, proposing, in her own mind, to 
open herself first to Father Cristoforo. But what did 
she feel, when, in inquiring after him, she heard that 
he was no longer at Pescarenico; that he had been sent 
to a town far, far away, to a town bearing such and such 
a name ! 

* And Renzo ? ' said Agnese. 

' He's in safety, isn't he ? ' said Lucia, hastily. 

* That much is certain, because everybody says so ; It 
is thought, too, pretty surely, that he's gone to the territory 
of Bergamo; but the exact place nobody knows: and hitherto 
he has sent no news of himself. Perhaps he hasn't yet 
found a way of doing so.' 

* Ah, if he's in safety, the Lord be praised ! ' said Lucia ; 
and she was seeking some other subject of conversation, 
when they were interrupted by an unexpected novelty — the 
appearance of the Cardinal Archbishop. 

This holy prelate, having returned from church, where 
we last left him, and having heard from the Unnamed of 
Lucia's safe arrival, had sat down to dinner, placing his 
new friend on his right hand, in the midst of a circle of 
priests, who were never weary of casting glances at that 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 413 

countenance, now so subdued without weakness, so humble 
without dejection, and of comparing him with the idea 
they had so long entertained of this formidable personage. 

Dinner being removed, the two again withdrew together. 
After a conversation, which lasted much longer than the 
first, the Unnamed set off anew for his Castle, on the same 
mule which had bori^ him thither in the morning; and the 
Cardinal, calling the priest of the parish, told him that he 
wished to be gmded to the house where Lucia had fotmd 
shelter. 

' Oh, my Lord ! ' replied the parish priest, allow me, and 
I will send directly to bid the young girl come here, with 
her mother, if she has arrived, and their hosts too, if my 
Lord wishes — indeed, all that your illustriaus Grace desires 
to see.' 

* I wish to go myself to see them,' replied Federigo. 

'There's no necessity for your illustrious Lordship to 
give yourself that trouble; I will send directly to fetch 
them : it's very quickly done,' insisted the persevering spoiler 
of his plans, (a worthy man on the whole,) not compre- 
hending that the Cardinal wished by this visit to do honour 
at once to the unfortunate girl, to innocence, to hospitality, 
and to his own ministry. But the superior having again ex- 
pressed the same desire, the inferior bowed, and led the 
way. 

When the two companions were seen to enter the street 
every one immediately gathered roimd them; and, in a few 
moments, people £ocked from every direction, forming two 
wings at their sides, and a train behind. The Curate of- 
ficiously repeated, 'Come, come, keep back, keep off; fye! 
fye!' Federigo, however, forbade him; *Let them alone, 
let them alone;' and he walked on, now raising his hand to 
bless the people, now lowering it to fondle the children, 
who gathered roimd his feet. In this way they reached the 
house, and entered, the crowd hedging round the door out- 
side. In this crowd the tailor also found himself, having 
followed behind, like the rest, with eager eyes and open 
mouth, not knowing whither they were going. When he 
saw, however, this unexpected whither, he forced the throng 
to make way, it may be imagined with what bustle, crying 



414 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

over and over again, ' Make way for one who has a right to 
pass ; ' and so went into the house. 

Agnese and Lucia heard an increasing murmur in the 
street, and while wondering what it could be, saw the door 
thrown open, and admit the purple-clad prelate, and the 
priest of the parish. 

* Is this she ?' demanded Federigo of the Curate; and on 
receiving a sign in the affirmative, he advanced towards 
Lucia, who was holding back with her mother, both of them 
motionless, and mute with surprise and bashfulness; but 
the tone of his voice, the countenance, the behaviour, and, 
above all, the words of Federigo, quickly reanimated them. 
' Poor girl,' he began, * God has permitted you to be put 
to a great trial; but He has surely shown you that His 
eye was still over you, that He had not forgotten you. 
He has restored you in safety, and has made use of you 
for a great work, to show infinite mercy to one, and to re- 
lieve, at the same time, many others.' 

Here the mistress of the house came into the apartment, 
who, at the bustle outside, had gone to the window upstairs, 
and seeing who was entering the house, hastily ran down, 
after slightly arranging her dress; and almost at the same 
moment the tailor made his appearance at another door. 
Seeing their guests engaged in conversation, they quietly 
withdrew into one corner, and v/aitecl there with profound 
respect. The Cardinal, having courteously saluted them, 
continued to talk to the women, mingling with his words 
of comfort many inquiries, thinking he might possibly gather 
from their replies some way of doing good to one who had 
undergone so much suffering. 

' It would be well if all priests were like your Lordship, 
if they would sometimes take the part of the poor, and 
not help to put them into difficulties to get themselves out,' 
said Agnese, emboldened by the kind and affable behaviour 
of Federigo, and annoyed at the thought that the Signor 
Don Abbondio, after having sacrificed others on every 
occasion, should now even attempt to forbid their giving 
vent to their feelings, and complaining to one who was set 
in authority over him, when, by an unusual chance, the 
occasion for doing so presented itself. 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 415 

*Just say all that you think/ said the Cardinal: 'speak 
freely/ 

'I mean to say, that' if our Signor Curate had done his 
duty, things wouldn't have gone as they have.' 

But the Cardinal renewing his request that she should 
explain herself more fully, she began to feel rather per- 
plexed at having to relate a story in which she, too, had 
borne a part she did not care to make known, especially 
to such a man. However, she contrived to manage it, with 
the help of a little curtailing. She related the intended 
match, and the refusal of Don Abbondio ; nor was she silent 
on the pretext of the superiors which he had brought for- 
ward (ah, Agnese!) ; and then she skipped on to Don Rod- 
rigo's attempt, and how, having been warned of it, they 
had been able to make their escape. ' But indeed,' added 
she, in conclusion, * we only escaped to be again caught in 
the snare. If instead, the Signor Curate had honestly told 
us the whole, and had immediately married my poor chil- 
dren, we would have gone away all together directly, pri- 
vately, and far enough off, to a place where not even the 
wind would have known us. But, in this way, time was 
lost; and now has happened what has happened.' 

* The Signor Curate shall render me an account of this 
matter,' said the Cardinal. 

* Oh, n6, Signor, no ! ' replied Agnese : ' I didn't speak 
on that account : don't scold him ; for what is done, is done ; 
and, besides, it will do no good; it is his nature; and on 
another occasion he would do just the same.' 

But Lucia, dissatisfied with this way of relating the story, 
added : * We have also done wrong : it shows it was not the 
Lord's will that the plan should succeed.* 

*What can you have done wrong, my poor girl?* asked 
Federigo. 

And, in spite of the threatening glances which her mother 
tried to give her secretly, Lucia, in her turn, related the 
history of their attempt in Don Abbondio's house; and 
concluded by saying, *We have done wrong, and God has 
punished us for it.' 

* Take, as from His hand, the sufferings you have under- 
gone, and be of good courage/ said Federigo ; ' for whQ 



416 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

have reason to rejoice and be hopeful, but those who have 
suffered, and are ready to accuse themselves ? ' 

He then asked where was the Betrothed; and hearing 
from Agnese (Lucia stood silent, with her head bent, and 
downcast eyes) how he had been outlawed, he felt and 
expressed surprise and dissatisfaction, and asked why it 
was. 

Agnese stammered out what little she knew of Renzo's 
history. 

' I have heard speak of this youth,' said the Cardinal ; * but 
how happens it that a man involved in affairs of this sort 
is in treaty of marriage with this young girl?' 

' He was a worthy youth/ said Lucia, blushing, but in 
a firm voice. 

* He was even too quiet a lad,' added Agnese ; ' and you 
may ask this of anybody you like, even of the Signor Curate. 
Who knows what confusion they may have made down 
there, what intrigues? It takes little to make poor people 
seem rogues.* 

* Indeed, it's too true,' said the Cardinal ; * I'll certainly 
make inquiries about him;' and learning the name and resi- 
dence of the youth, he made a memorandum of them on his 
tablets. He added, that he expected to be at their village 
in a few days, that then Lucia might go thither without 
fear, and that, in the mean while, he would think about pro- 
viding her some secure retreat, till everything was arranged 
for the best. 

Then, turning to the master and mistress of the house, 
who immediately came forward, he renewed the acknowl- 
edgment which he had already conveyed through the priest 
of the parish, and asked them whether they were willing 
to receive, for a few days, the guests which God had sent 
them. 

* Oh yes, sir ! ' replied the woman, in a tone of voice and 
with a look which meant much more than the bare words 
seemed to express. But her husband, quite excited by the 
presence of such an interrogator, and by the wish to do him 
honour on so important an occasion, anxiously sought for 
some fine reply. He wrinkled his forehead, strained and 
squinted with his eyes, compressed his lips, stretched his 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 417 

intellect to its utmost extent, strove, fumbled about m his 
mind, and there found an overwhelming medley of unfinished 
ideas and half- formed words : but time pressed ; the Cardinal 
signified that he had already interpreted his silence; the 
poor man opened his mouth and pronounced the words, 
* You may imagine ! ' At this point not another word would 
occur to him. This failure not only disheartened and vexed 
him at the moment, but the tormenting remembrance ever 
after spoiled his complacency in the great honour he had 
received. And how often, in the thinking it over, and fancy- 
ing himself again in the same circumstances, did numberless 
words crowd upon his mind, as it were, out of spite, any of 
which would have been better than that silly. You may 
imagine! But are not the very ditches full of wisdom — too 
late! 

The Cardinal took his leave, saying, ' The blessing of 
God be upon this house.' 

The same evening he asked the Curate in what w^ay he 
could best compensate to the tailor, who certainly could not 
be rich, for the expenses he must have incurred, especially 
in these times, by his hospitality. The Curate replied, that, 
in truth, neither the profits of his business nor the produce 
of some small fields which the good tailor owned, would 
be enough this year to allow of his being liberal to others; 
but that, having laid by a little in the preceding years, he 
was among the most easy in circumstances in the neighbour- 
hood, and could afford to do a kindness without incon- 
venience, as he certainly would with all his heart; and that, 
under any circumstances, he would deem it an insult to be 
offered money in compensation. 

'He will, probably,' said the Cardinal, 'have demands 
on people unable to pay.' 

'You may judge yourself, my most illustrious Lord: these 
poor people pay from the overplus of the harvest. Last year 
there was no overplus; and this one, everybody falls short 
of absolute necessaries.' 

' Very well,' replied Federigo, ' I will take all these debts 
upon myself; and you will do me the pleasure of getting 
from him a list of the sums, and discharging them for me.' 

* It will be a tolerable sum.' 

HC 14— Vol. 21 



418 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

' So much the better : and you will have, I dare say, manr 
more wretched, and almost destitute of clothing, who have 
no debts, because they can get no credit/ 

•'Alas! too many! One does what one can; but how can 
we supply all in times like these ? ' 

' Tell him to clothe them at my expense, and pay him well. 
Really, this year, all that does not go for bread seems a kind 
of robbery ; but this is a particular case/ 

We cannot close the history of this day, without briefly 
relating how the Unnamed concluded it. 

This time the report of his conversion had preceded him 
in the valley, and quickly spreading throughout it, had ex- 
cited among all the inhabitants consternation, anxiety, and 
angry whisperings. To the first bravo es or servants (it 
mattered not which) whom he met, he made signs that they 
should follow him; and so on, on either hand. All fell 
behind with unusual perplexity of mind, but with their ac- 
customed submission; so that, with a continually increasing 
train, he at length reached the Castle. He beckoned to those 
who were loitering about the gate to follow him with the 
others; entered the first court, went towards the middle, and 
here, seated all the while on his saddle, uttered one of his 
thundering calls: it was the accustomed signal at which 
all his dependents, who were within hearing, immediately 
flocked towards him. In a moment, all those who were 
scattered throughout the Castle attended to the summons, 
and mingled with the already assembled party, gazing eagerly 
at their master. 

* Go, and wait for me in the great hall,' said he ; and, from 
his higher station on horseback, he watched them all move 
off. He then dismounted, led the animal to the stables him- 
self, and repaired to the room where he was expected. On 
his appearance, a loud whispering was instantly hushed, 
and retiring to one side, they left a large space in the hall 
quite clear for him: there may have been, perhaps, about 
thirty. 

The Unnamed raised his hand, as If to preserve the silence 
his presence had already created, raised his head, which tow- 
ered above all those of the assemblage, and said : * Listen, all 
of you, and let no one speak unless I bid him. My friends I 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 419 

the path we have hitherto followed leads to the depths of 
hell. I do not mean to upbraid you, I, who have been fore- 
most of you all, the worst of all; but listen to what I have to 
say. The merciful God has called me to change my life; 
and I will change it, I have already changed it: so may 
He do with you all ! Know, then, and hold it for certain, 
that I am resolved rather to die than to do anything more 
against His holy laws. I revoke all the wicked commands 
you may any of you have received from me; you understand 
me ; indeed, I command you not to do anything I have before 
commanded. And hold it equally certain, that no one, from 
this time forward, shall do evil with my sanction, in my serv- 
ice. He Vv^ho will remain with me under these conditions 
shall be to me as a son; and I shall feel happy at the close 
of that day in which I shall not have eaten, that I may supply 
the last of you with the last loaf I have left in the house. 
He who does not v^ish to remain, shall receive what is due 
of his salary, and an additional gift: he may go av/ay, but 
must never again set foot here, unless it be to change his 
life; for this purpose he shall always be received with open 
arms. Think about it to-night: to-morrow morning I will 
ask you one by one for your reply, and will then give you 
new orders. For the present retire, every one to his post. 
And God, who has exercised such mercy tov^^ards me, incline 
you to good resolutions ! * 

Here he ceased, and all continued silent. How various 
and tumultuous soever might be the thoughts at work in 
their hardened minds, they gave no outward demonstration 
of emotion. They were accustomed to receive the voice of 
their master as the declaration of a will from v/nich there 
was no appeal: and that voice, announcing that the will 
was changed, in no wise denoted that it was enfeebled. It 
never crossed the mind of one of them that, because he was 
converted, they might therefore assume over him, and reply 
to him as to another man. They beheld in him a saint, but 
one of those saints who are depicted with a lofty brow, and 
a sword in their hands. Besides the fear he inspired, they 
also entertained for him (especially those born in his service, 
and they,v/ere a large proportion) the affection of subjects; 
they had all, besides, a kindly feeling of admiration for 



420 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

him, and experienced in his presence a species of, I will even 
say, modest humility, such as the rudest and most wanton 
spirits feel before an authority which they have once recog- 
nized. Again, the things they had just heard from his lips 
were doubtless odious to their ears, but neither false, nor 
entirely alien to their understandings : if they had a thousand 
times ridiculed them, it was not because they disbelieved 
them ; but to obviate, by ridicule, the fear which any serious 
consideration of them would have awakened. And now, on 
seeing the effect of this fear on a mind like that of their 
master, there was not one who did not either more or less 
sympathize with him, at least for a little while. In addition 
to all this, those among them who had first heard the grand 
news beyond the valley, had at the same time witnessed and 
related the joy, the exultation of ±he people, the new favour 
with which the Unnamed was regarded, and the veneration 
so suddenly exchanged for their former hatred — their former 
terror. So that in the man whom they had always regarded, 
so to say, as a superior being, even while they, in a great 
measure, themselves constituted his strength, they now beheld 
the wonder, the idol of a multitude; they beheld him exalted 
above others, in a different, but not less real, manner; ever 
above the common throng, ever at the head. They stood 
now confounded, uncertain one of another, and each one of 
himself. Some murmured ; some began to plan whither they 
could go to find shelter and employment; some questioned 
with themselves whether they could make up their minds to 
become honest men; some even, moved by his words, felt a 
sort of inclination to do so; others, without resolving upon 
anything, proposed to promise everything readily, to remain 
in the mean while where they could share the loaf so willingly 
offered, and in those days so scarce, and thus gain time 
for decision : no one, however, uttered a syllable. And when,: 
at the close of his speech, the Unnamed again raised his 
authoritative hand, and beckoned to them to disperse, they 
all moved off in the direction of the door as quietly as a flock 
of sheep. He followed them out, and placing himself in the 
middle of the courtyard, stood to watch them by the dim 
evening light, as they separated from each other, and re- 
paired to their several gosts. Then, returning to fetch a 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 421 

lantern, he again traversed the courts, corridors, and halls, 
visited every entrance, and after seeing that all was quiet, at 
length retired to sleep. Yes, to sleep, because he was sleepy. 

Never, though he had always industriously courted them, 
had he, in any conjuncture, been so overburdened with in- 
tricate, and at the same time urgent, affairs, as at the present 
moment: yet he was sleepy. The remorse, which had robbed 
him of rest the night before, was not only unsubdued, but 
even spoke more loudly, more sternly, more absolutely : yet he 
was sleepy. The order, the kind of government established by 
him in that Castle for so many years, with so much care, and 
such a singular union of rashness and perseverance, he had 
now himself overturned by a few words; the unlimited de- 
votion of his dependents, their readiness for any undertaking, 
their ruffian-like fidelity, on which he had long been accus- 
tomed to depend, — these he had himself shaken; his various 
engagements had become a tissue of perplexities; he had 
brought confusion and uncertainty into his household: yet 
he was sleepy. 

He went, -therefore, into his chamber, approached that 
bed, which, the night before, he had found such a thorny 
couch, and knelt down at its side with the intention of pray- 
ing. He found, in fact, in a deep and hidden corner of his 
mind, the prayers he had been taught to repeat as a child? 
he began to recite them, and the words so long wrapped up, 
as it were, together, flowed one after another, as if emerging 
once more to light. He experienced in this act a mixture of 
undefined feelings ; a kind of soothing pleasure, in this actual 
return to the habits of innocent childhood; a doubly bitter 
contrition at the thought of the gulf that he had placed be- 
tween those former days and the present; an ardent desire 
to attain, by works of expiation, a clearer conscience, a state 
more nearly resembling that of innocence, to which he could 
never return ; together with a feeling of deep gratitude, and 
of confidence in that mercy which could lead him towards it, 
and had already given so many tokens of willingness to do 
so. Then, rising from his knees, he lay down, and was 
quickly wrapt in sleep. 

Thus ended a day still so much celebrated when our anony- 
mous author wrote : a day of which, had he not written, noth- 



422 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ing would have been known, at least nothing of the particu- 
lars; for Riparnonti and Rivola, whom we have quoted 
above, merely record that, after an interview with Federigo, 
this remarkable tyrant wonderfully changed his course of 
life, and for ever. And how few are there who have read 
the works of these authors ! Fewer still are there who will 
read this of ours. And who knows whether in the valley 
itself, if any one had the inclination to seek, and the ability 
to find it, there now remains the smallest trace, the most 
confused tradition, of such an event? So many things have 
taken place since that time I 




CHAPTER XXV 

"EXT day, there was no one spoken of in Lucia's vil- 
lage, and throughout the whole territory of Lecco, 
but herself, the Unnamed, the Archbishop, and one 
other person, who, however ambitious to have his name in 
men^s mouths, would willingly, on this occasion, have dis- 
pensed with the honour: we mean the Signor Don Rodrigo. 
Not that his doings had not before been talked about; 
but they were detached, secret conversations; and that man 
must have been very well acquainted with his neighbour 
who would have ventured to discourse with him freely on 
such a subject. Nay, people did not even exercise those 
feelings on the subject of which they were capable; for, 
generally speaking, when men cannot give vent to their 
indignation without imminent danger, they not only show 
less than they feel, or disguise it entirely, but they feel less 
in reality. But now, who could refrain from inquiring and 
reasoning about so notorious an event, in w^hich the hand 
of Heaven had been seen, and in which two such person- 
ages bore a conspicuous part ? One, in whom such a spirited 
love of justice was united to so much authority; the other 
who, with all his boldness, had been induced, as it were, to 
lay down his arms, and submit. By the side of these rivals, 
Don Rodrigo looked rather insignificant. Now, all understood 
what it was to torment innocence with the v/ish to dishonour 
it; to persecute it with such insolent perseverance, with such 
atrocious violence, with such abominable treachery. They 
reviewed, on this occasion, all the other feats of the Signor, 
and said what they thought about all, each one being em- 
boldened by finding everybody else of the same opinion. 
There Vv^'ere whisperings, and general murmurs; cautiously 
uttered, however, on account of the numberless bravoes he 
had around him. 

A large share of public anim.adversion fell also upon his 
friends and flatterers. They said of the Signor Podesta 
what he richly deserved, always deaf, and blind, and dumb^ 

423 



424 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

on the doings of this tyrant ; but this also cautiously, for the 
Podesta had bailiffs. With the Doctor Assecca-Garbugli^ 
who had no weapons but gossiping and cabals, and with other 
jfiatterers like himself, they did not use so much ceremony; 
these were pointed at, and regarded with very contemptuous 
and suspicious glances, so that, for some time, they judged it 
expedient to keep as much within doors as possible. 

Don Rodrigo, astounded at this unlooked-for news, so 
different to the tidings he had expected day after day, and 
hour after hour, remained ensconced in his den-like palace, 
with no one to keep him company but his bravoes, devouring 
his rage, for two days, and on the third set off for Milan. 
Had there been nothing else but the murmuring of the people, 
perhaps since things had gone so far, he would have stayed 
on purpose to face it, or even to seek an opportunity of mak- 
ing an example to others of one of the most daring; but the 
certain intelligence that the Cardinal was coming into the 
neighbourhood fairly drove him away. The Count, his uncle, 
who knew nothing of the story but what he had been told by 
Attilio, would certainly expect that on such an occasion, 
Don Rodrigo should be the first to wait upon the Cardinal, 
and receive from him in public the most distinguished re- 
ception : every one must see how he was on the road to this 
consummation ! The Count expected it, and would have re- 
quired a minute account of the visit ; for it was an important 
opportunity of showing in what esteem his family was held 
by one of the head powers. To extricate himself from so 
odious a dilemma, Don Rodrigo, rising one morning before 
the sun, threw himself into his carriage, Griso and some 
other bravoes outside, both in front and behind ; and leaving 
orders that the rest of his household should follow him, 
took his departure, like a fugitive — like, (it will, perhaps, be 
allowed us to exalt our characters by so illustrious a com- 
parison) — like Catiline from Rome, fretting and fuming, 
and swearing to return very shortly in a different guise to 
execute his vengeance. 

In the mean while, the Cardinal proceeded on his visitation 
among the parishes in the territory of Lecco, taking one 
each day. On the day in which he was to arrive at Lucia's 
village, a large gart of the inhabitants were early; on the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 425 

road to meet him. At the entrance of the village, close by the 
cottage of our two poor women, was erected a triumphal 
arch, constructed of upright stakes, and poles laid cross- 
wise, covered with straw and moss, and ornamented with 
green boughs of holly, distinguishable by its scarlet berries, 
and other shrubs. The front of the church was adorned 
with tapestry ; from every window-ledge hung extended quilts 
and sheets, and infants swaddling-clothes, disposed like 
drapery; in short, all the few necessary articles which could 
be converted, either bodily or otherwise, into the appearance 
of something superfluous. Towards evening, (the hour at 
which Federigo usually arrived at the church, on his visita- 
tion-tours,) all who had remained within doors, old men, 
women and children, for the most part, set off to meet him, 
some in procession, some in groups, headed by Don Abbondio, 
who, in the midst of the rejoicing, locked disconsolate 
enough, both from the stunning noise of the crowd, and the 
continual hurrying to and fro of the people, which, as he him- 
self expressed it, quite dimmed his sight, together with a 
secret apprehension that the women might have been babbling 
and that he would be called upon to render an account of the 
wedding. 

At length the Cardinal came in sight, or, to speak more 
correctly, the crowd in the midst of which he was carried 
in his litter, surrounded by his attendants ; for nothing could 
be distinguished of his whole party, but a signal tov/ering in 
the air above the heads of the people, part of the cross, 
which was borne by the chaplain, mounted upon his mule. 
The crowd, which was dancing v/ith Don Abbondio, hurried 
forward in a disorderly manner to join the approaching 
party; while he, after ejaculating three or four times, 
* Gently ; in procession ; what are you doing ? ' turned back 
in vexation, and muttering to himself, * It's a perfect Babel, 
it's a perfect Babel ' went to take refuge in the church until 
they had dispersed; and here he awaited the Cardinal. 

The holy prelate in the mean while advanced slowly, 
bestowing benedictions with his hand, and receiving them 
from the mouths of the multitude, while his followers had 
enough to do to keep their places behind him. As Lucia's 
countrymen, the villagers were anxious to receive the Arch- 



426 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

bishop with more than ordinary honours, but this was no 
easy matter; for it had long been customxary, wherever he 
went, for all to do the most they could. At the very begin- 
ning of his episcopate, on his first solemn entry into the 
cathedral, the rush and crowding of the populace upon him 
were such as to excite fears for his life; and some of the 
gentlemen who were nearest to him, had actually drawn 
their swords to terrify and repulse the press. Such were 
their violent and uncouth manners^ that even in making 
demonstrations of kindly feeling to a bishop in church, and 
attempting to regulate them, it was necessary almost to 
have recourse to bloodshed. And that defence would not, 
perhaps, have proved sufficient, had not two priests, strong 
in body, and bold in spirit, raised him in their arms, and 
carried him at once from the door of the temple to the very 
foot of the high altar. From that time forward, in the 
many episcopal visits he had to make, his first entrance into 
the church might, without joking, be reckoned among his 
pastoral labours, and sometimes even among the dangers 
he had incurred. 

On this occasion, he entered as he best could, went up 
to the altar, and thence, after a short prayer, addressed, as 
was his custom, a few words to his auditors, of his affec- 
tion for them, his desire for their salvation, and the way 
in which they ought to prepare themselves for the services 
of the morrow. Then retiring to the parsonage, among 
many other things he had to consult about with the Curate, 
he questioned him as to the character and conduct of Renzo. 
Don Abbondio said that he was rather a brisk, obstinate, 
hot-headed fellow. But, on more particular and precise in- 
terrogations, he was obliged to admit that he was a worthy 
youth, and that he himself could not understand how he 
could have played all the mischievous tricks at Milan, which 
had been reported of him. 

* And about the young girl,' resumed the Cardinal ; * do 
you think she may now return in security to her own home ? ' 

' For the present,' replied Don Abbondio, * she might come 
and be as safe — the present, I say — as she wishes; but,' 
added he with a sigh, * your illustrious Lordship ought to 
be always here, or, at least, near at hand.' 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 427 

*The Lord is always near/ said the Cardinal: 'as to 
the rest, I will think about placing her in safety.' And he 
hastily gave orders that, next morning early, a litter should 
be despatched, with an attendant, to fetch the two women. 

Don Abbondio came out from the interview quite de- 
lighted that the Cardinal had talked to him about the two 
young people, w^ithout requiring an account of his refusal 
to marry them. — Then he knows nothing about it, — said 
he to himself: — Agnese has held her tongue. Wonderful! 
They have to see him again; but I will give them further 
instructions, that I will. — He knew not, poor man, that Fed- 
erigo had not entered upon the discussion, just because he 
intended to speak to him about it more at length when they 
were disengaged; and that he washed, before giving him 
what he deserved, to hear his side of the question. 

But the intentions of the good prelate for the safe placing 
of Lucia had, in the mean while, been rendered unnecessary: 
after he had left her, other circumstances had occurred 
which we will now proceed to relate. 

The two women, during the few days which they had to 
pass in the tailor's hospitable dwelling, had resumed, as 
far as they could, each her former and accustomed manner 
of living. Lucia had very soon begged some employment; 
and, as at the monastery, diligently plied her needle in a 
small retired room shut out from the gaze of the people. 
Agnese occasionally went abroad, and at other times sat 
sewing with her daughter. Their conversations were more 
melancholy, as well as more affectionate; both were pre- 
pared for a separation; since the lamb could not return to 
dwell so near the wolf's den: and when and what w^ould 
be the end of this separation? The future was dark, inex- 
tricable; for one of them in particular. Agnese, never- 
theless, indulged in her own mind many cheerful antici- 
pations, that Renzo, if nothing evil had happened to him, 
would, sooner or later, send some news of himself, and if 
he had found some employment to which he could settle, 
if (and how could it be doubted?) he still intended to keep 
faith with Lucia ; why could they not go and live with him ? 
With such hopes she often entertained her daughter, who 
found it, it is difficult to say, whether more mournful to 



428 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

listen to them, or painful to reply. Her great secret she 
had always kept to herself; and uneasy, certainly, at con- 
cealing anything from so good a mother, yet restrained, 
invincibly as it were, by shame^ and the different fears we 
have before mentioned, she went from day to day without 
speaking. Her designs were very different from those of 
her mother, or rather, she had no designs; she had en- 
tirely given herself up to Providence. She always there- 
fore endeavoured to divert or let drop the conversation; or 
else said, in general terms, that she had no longer any hope 
or desire for anything in this world except to be soon re- 
stored to her mother ; more frequently, however, tears came 
. opportunely instead of words. 

* Do you know why it appears so to you ? ' said Agnese ; 
* because you've suffered so much, and it doesn't seem pos- 
sible that it can turn out for good to you. But leave it 
to God; and if . . . Let a ray come, but one ray; and then / 
know whether you will always care about nothing.' Lucia 
kissed her mother, and wept. 

Besides this, a great friendship quickly sprang up be- 
tween them and their hosts: where, indeed, should it exist, 
unless between benefactors and the benefited, when both 
one and the other are worthy, good people? Agnese, par- 
ticularly, had many long chats with the mistress of the 
house. The tailor, too, gave them a little amusement with 
his stories and moral discourses: and, at dinner especially, 
had always some wonderful anecdote to relate of Buovo 
d'Antona, or the Fathers of the Desert. 

A few miles from this village resided, at their country- 
house, a couple of some importance, Don Ferrante and 
Donna Prassede: their family, as usual, is unnamed by 
our anonymous author. Donna Prassede was an old lady, 
very much inclined to do good, the most praise-worthy 
employment, certainly, that a person can undertake; but 
which, like every other, can be too easily abused. To do 
good, we must know how to do it; and, like everything else, 
we can only know this through the medium of our own 
passions, our own judgment, our own ideas; which not un- 
frequently are rather as correct as they are capable of 
being, than as they ought to be. Donna Prassede acted 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 429 

towards her ideas as it is said one ought to do towards one's 
friends; she had few of them; but to those few she was 
very much attached. Among the few, there were, unfortu- 
nately, many distorted ones; nor was it these she loved the 
least. Hence it happened, either that she proposed to herself 
as a good end what was not such in reality, or employed 
means which would rather produce an opposite effect, or 
thought them allowable when they were not at all so, from a 
certain vague supposition, that he who does more than his 
duty, may also go beyond his right; it happened that she 
could not see in an event what was actually there, or did 
see what was not there; and m.any other similar things, 
which may and do happen to all, not excepting the best; 
but to Donna Prassede far too often, and, not unfrequently, 
all at once. 

On hearing Lucia's wonderful case, and all that was 
reported on this occasion of the young girl, she felt a great 
curiosity to see her, and sent a carriage, with an aged at- 
tendant, to fetch both mother and daughter. The latter 
shrugged her shoulders, and besought the tailor, who was 
the bearer of the message, to find some sort of excuse for 
her. So long as it mly related to the common people, who 
tried to make acquaintance with the young girl who had 
been the subject of a miracle, the tailor had willingly ren- 
dered her that service ; but in this instance, resistance seemed 
in his eyes a kind of rebellion. He made so many faces, 
uttered so many exclamations, used so many arguments — 
* that it wasn't customary to do so, and that it was a grand 
house, and that one shouldn't say " No " to great people, and 
that it might be the making of their fortune, and that the 
Signora Donna Prassede, besides all the rest, was a saint 
too 1 ' — in short, so many things, that Lucia was obliged to 
give way: more especially, as Agnese confirm^ed all these 
reasonings with a corresponding number of ejaculations: 
' Certainly, surely.' 

Arrived in the lady's presence, she received them with 
much courtesy and numberless congratulations; questioning 
and advising them with a kind of almost innate superiority, 
but corrected by so many humble expressions, tempered by 
so much interest in their behalf, and sweetened with so 



430 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

many expressions of piety, that Agnese, almost immediately, 
and Lucia not long afterwards, began to feel relieved from 
the oppressive sense of awe with which the presence of such 
a lady had inspired them; nay, they even found something 
attractive in it. In short, hearing that the Cardinal had 
undertaken to find Lucia a place of retreat, and urged by a 
desire to second, and, at the same time, anticipate his good 
intention, Donna Prassede proposed to take the young girl 
into her own house, where no other services would be re- 
quired of her than the use of her needle, scissors, and 
spindle ; adding, that she would take upon herself the charge 
of informing his Lordship. 

Beyond the obvious and immediate good in this work 
Donna Prassede saw in it, and proposed to herself another, 
perhaps a more considerable one in her ideas, that of direct- 
ing a young mind, and of bringing into the right way one 
who greatly needed it; for, from the first momxnt she had 
heard Lucia mentioned, she became instantly persuaded, 
that, in a young girl who could have promised herself to a 
scoundrel, a villain, in short, a scape-gallows, there must be 
some fault, some hidden wickedness lurking within: Tell 
me what company you keep, and I'll tell you what you are. 
Lucia's visit had confirmed this persuasion: not that, on the 
whole, as the saying is, she did not seem to Donna Prassede 
a good girl ; but there were many things to favour the idea. 
That head hung down till her chin was buried in her neck; 
her not replying at all, or only in broken sentences, as if by 
constraint, might indicate modesty; but they undoubtedly 
denoted a great deal of wilfulness: it did not require much 
discernment to discover that that young brain had its own 
thoughts on the subject. And those blushes every moment, 
and those suppressed sighs . . . Two such eyes, too, which 
did not please Donna Prassede at all. She held it for cer- 
tain, as if she knew it on good grounds, that all Lucia's mis- 
fortunes were a chastisement from Heaven for her attach- 
ment to a rascal, and a warning to her to give him up 
entirely; and these premises being laid down, she proposed 
to co-operate towards so good an end. Because, as she often 
said both to herself and others, she made it her object to 
second the will of Heaven; but she often fell into the mis- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 431 

conception of taking for the will of Heaven the fancies of 
her own brain. However, she took care not to give the least 
hint of the second intention we have named. It was one 
of her maxims, that, to bring a good design to a useful issue, 
the first requisite, in the greater number of instances, is not 
to let it be discovered. 

The mother and daughter looked at each other. Consider- 
ing the mournful necessity of their separating, the offer 
seemed to both of them most acceptable, when they had no 
choice for it, on account of the vicinity of the residence to 
their village, whither, let the w^orst come to the worst, they 
would return, and be able to meet at the approaching fes- 
tivity. Seeing assent exhibited in each other's eyes, they 
both turned to Donna Prassede with such acknowledgments 
as expressed their acceptance of the proposal. She renewed 
her kind affability and promises, and said that they would 
shortly have a letter to present to his Lordship. After the 
women had taken their departure, she got Don Ferrante 
to compose the letter. He, being a learned person, as we 
shall hereafter relate more particularly, was always em- 
ployed by her as secretary on occasions of importance. On 
one of such magnitude as this, Don Ferrante exerted his 
utmost stretch of ingenuity; and on delivering the rough 
draught to his partner to copy, warmly recommended the 
orthography to her notice ; this being one of the many things 
he had studied, and the few over which he had any command 
in the house. Donna Prassede copied it very diligently, and 
then despatched the letter to the tailor's. This was two or 
three days before the Cardinal sent the litter to convey the 
two women home. 

Arriving at the village before the Cardinal had gone to 
church, they alighted at the curate's house. There wa<s an 
order to admit them immediately : the chaplain, who was the 
first to see them, executed the order, only detaining them 
so long as was necessary to school them very hastily in the 
ceremonials they ought to observe towards his Lordship, 
and the titles by which they should address him, his usual 
practice w^herever he could effect it unknown to his Grace. 
It v/as a continual annoyance to the poor man to see the 
little ceremony that was used towards the Cardinal in this 



432 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

particular. ' All/ said he to the rest of the household, 
'through the excess of kindness of that saintly man — from 
his great familiarity/ And then he related how, with his 
own ears, he had more than once even heard the reply: 
' Yes, sir/ and ' No, sir' 

The Cardinal was, at this moment, busily talking with Don 
Abbondio on some parish matters : so that the latter had not 
the desired opportunity of giving his instructions also to the 
women. He could only bestow upon them in passing, as he 
withdrew and they came forward, a glance, which m.eant to 
say how well-pleased he was with them, and conjuring them, 
like good creatures, to continue silent. 

After the first kind greetings on one hand, and the first 
reverent salutations on the other, Agnese drew the letter 
from her bosom, and handed it to the Cardinal, saying : ' It 
is from the Signora Donna Prassede, who says, she knows 
your most illustrious Lordship well, my Lord; it's natural 
enough, among such great people, that they should know 
each other. When you have read it, you'll see.' 

*Very well,' said Federigo, when he had read the letter, 
and extracted the honey from Don Ferrante's flowers of 
rhetoric. He knew the family well enough to feel certain 
that Lucia had been invited thither with good intentions, and 
that there she would be secure from the machinations and 
violence of her persecutor. What opinion he entertained 
of Donna Prassede's head, we have no positive information. 
Probably she was not the person whom he would have chosen 
for such a purpose ; but, as we have said, or hinted, elsewhere, 
it was not his custom to undo arrangements made by those 
whose duty it was to make them, that he might do them 
over again better. 

Take this separation also, and the uncertainty in which 
you are placed, calmly,' added he; 'trust that it will soon 
be over, and that God will bring matters to that end to 
which He seems to have directed them; but rest assured, 
that whatever He wills shall happen, will be the best for 
you.' To Lucia, in particular, he gave some further kind 
advice; another word or two of comfort to both; and then, 
bestowing on them his blessing, he let them go. At the street- 
door they found themselves surrounded by a crowd of friends 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 433 

of both sexes, the whole population, we may almost say, who 
were waiting for them, and who conducted them home, as 
in triumph. Among the women there was quite a rivalry in 
congratulations, sympathy, and inquiries; and all exclaimed 
with dissatisfaction, on hearing that Lucia would leave them 
the next day. The men vied with each other in offering their 
services; — every one wished to keep guard at the cottage 
for that night. Upon this fact, our anonymous author thinks 
fit to ground a proverb : Would you have many ready to help 
you? he sure not to need them. 

So many welcomes confounded and almost stunned Lucia; 
though, on the whole, they did her good, by somewhat dis- 
tracting her mind from those thoughts and recollections 
which, even in the midst of the bustle and excitement, rose 
only too readily on crossing that threshold, on entering those 
rooms, at the sight of every object. 

When the bells began to ring, announcing the approach 
of the hour for Divine service, everybody moved towards 
the church, and, to our newly-returned friends, it was a 
second triumphal march. 

Service being over, Don Abbondio, who had hastened for- 
ward to see if Perpetua had everything well arranged for 
dinner, was informed that the Cardinal wished to speak with 
him. He went im.mediately to his noble guest's apartment, 
who, waiting till he drew near ; ' Signor Curate,* he began — 
and these words were uttered in such a way as to convey 
the idea, that they were the preface to a long and serious 
conversation — * Signor Curate, why did you not unite in 
marriage this Lucia with her betrothed husband?' 

— Those people hav.e emptied the sack this morning, — 
thought Don Abbondio, as he stammered forth in reply, — 
* Your most illustrious Lordship will, doubtless, have heard 
speak of the confusions which have arisen out of this affair : 
it has all been so intricate, that, to this very day, one cannot 
see one's way clearly in it : as your illustrious Lordship may 
yourself conclude from this, that the young girl is here, 
after so many accidents, as it were by miracle ; and that the 
bridegroom, after other accidents, is nobody knows where.' 

* I ask,' replied the Cardinal, ' whether it is true that, be- 
fore all these circumstances took place, you refused to cele- 



434 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

brate the marriage, when you were requested to do SO, on 
the appointed day ; and if so, why ? ' 

* Really ... if your illustrious Lordship knew . . . what 
intimations . . . what terrible injunctions I have received 
not to speak . . J And he paused, without concluding, with 
a certain manner intended respectfully to insinuate, that it 
would be indiscreet to wish to know more. ^ 

^ But,* said the Cardinal, with a voice and look much more 
serious than usual, ^ it is your Bishop who, for his own duty's 
sake, and for your justification, wishes to learn from you 
v/liy you have not done what, in your regular duties, you 
were bound to do ? * 

*My Lord,* said Don Abbondio, shrinking alm.ost into a 
nut-shell, ^ I did not like to say before . . . But it seemed 
to me that, things being so entangled^ so long gone by, and 
now irremediable, it was useless to bring them up again . . . 
However — however, I say, I know your illustrious Lardship 
will not betray one of your poor priests. For you see, my 
Lord, your illustrious Lordship cannot be everywhere at 
once; and I remain here exposed . . . But, when you com- 
mand it, I will tell you . . . I will tell you all* 

* Tell me : I only wish to find you free from blame.* 

Don Abbondio then began to relate the doleful history; 
but suppressing the principal name, he merely substituted 
a great Signor; thus giving to prudence the little that he 
could in such an emergency. 

'And you had no other motive ? * asked the Cardinal, having 
attentively heard the whole. 

^ Perhaps I have not sufficiently explained myself,* replied 
Don Abbondio. * I was prohibited, under pain of death, to 
perform this marriage,* 

^And does this appear to you a sufficient reason for omit- 
ting a positive duty ? * 

*I have always endeavoured to do my duty, even at very 
great inconvenience; but when one*s life is concerned . . .* 

'And when you presented yourself to the Church,* said 
Federigo, in a still more solemn tone, ' to receive Holy 
Orders, did she caution you about your life? Did she tell 
you that the duties belonging to the ministry were free from 
every obstacle, exempt from every danger? or did she tell 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 435 

yon that where danger begins, there duty would end? Did 
she not expressly say the contrary? Did she not warn you, 
that she sent you forth as a sheep among wolves? Did you 
not know that there are violent oppressors, to whom what 
you are commanded to perform would be displeasing? He 
from whom v/e have received teaching and example, in imita- 
tion of whom we suffer ourselves to be called, and call our- 
selves, shepherds ; when He descended upon earth to execute 
His office, did He lay down as a condition the safety of His 
life? And to save it, to preserve it, I say, a few days longer 
upon earth, at the expense of charity and duty, did he in- 
stitute the holy unction, the imposition of hands, the gift of 
the priesthood? Leave it to the world to teach this virtue, 
to advocate this doctrine. What do I say ? Oh, shame ! 
the world itself rejects it: the v/orld also makes its own 
laws, which fix the limits of good and evil; it, too, has its 
gospel, a gospel of pride and hatred; and it will not have 
it said that the love of life is a reason for transgressing its 
precepts. It will not, and it is obeyed. And we ! children 
and proclaimers of the promise ! What would the Church 
be, if such language as yours were that of all your brethren? 
Where would she be, had she appeared in the world with 
these doctrines ? * 

Don Abbondio hung his head. His mind during these 
arguments was like a chicken in the talons of a hawk, which 
holds its prey elevated to an unknown region, to an at- 
mosphere it has never before breathed. Finding that he must 
make some reply, he said in an unconvinced tone of sub- 
mission, ' My Lord, I shall be to blame. When one is not 
to consider one's life, I don't know what to say. But when 
one has to do with, some people, people who possess power, 
and won't hear reason, I don't see what is to be gained by it, 
even if one were willing to play the bravo. This Signor is 
one whom it is impossible either to conquer, or win over.' 

'And don't you know that suffering for righteousness' sake 
is our conquest? If you know not this, what do you preach? 
What are you teacher of? What is the good news you an- 
nounce to the poor ? Who requires from you that you should 
conquer force by force? Surely you will not one day be 
asked, if you were able to overcome the powerful; for 



436 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

this purpose neither your mission nor rule was given to 
you. But you will assuredly be demanded, whether you em- 
ployed the means you possessed to do what was required of 
you, even when they had the temerity to prohibit you/ 

—These saints are very odd, — thought Don Abbondio 
meanwhile: — in substance, to extract the plain meaning, he 
has more at heart the affections of two young people than the 
life of a poor priest. — And, as to himself, he would have 
been very well satisfied had the conversation ended here; 
but he saw the Cardinal, at every pause, v/ait with the air 
of one who expects a reply, a confession, or an apology, — in 
short, something. 

' I repeat, my Lord,' answered he, therefore, ' that I shall 
fee to blame . . . One can't give one's self courage/ 

*And why then, I might ask you, did you undertake an office 
which binds upon you a continual warfare with the passions 
of the world? But I will rather say, how is it you do not 
remember that, if in this ministry, however you may have 
been placed there, courage is necessary to fulfil your obliga- 
tions, there is One who will infallibly bestow it upon you, 
when you ask Him? Think you all the millions of martyrs 
naturally possessed courage? that they naturally held life in 
contempt? So many young persons, just beginning to enjoy 
it — so many aged ones, accustomed to regret that it is so near 
its end — so many children — so many mothers ? All possessed 
courage, because courage was necessary, and they relied upon 
God. Knowing your own weakness, and the duties to which 
you were called, have you ever thought of preparing your- 
self for the difficult circumstances in v/hich you might be 
placed, in which you actually are placed at present ? Ah ! 
if for so many years of pastoral labours you have loved your 
flock (and how could you not love them?) — if you have 
placed in them your affections, your cares, your happiness, 
courage ought not to fail you in the moment of need: love 
is intrepid. Now, surely, if you loved those v/ho have been 
committed to your spiritual care, those whom you call chil- 
dren, when you saw two of them threatened, as well as your- 
self, ah, surely ! as the weakness of the flesh made you 
tremble for yourself, so love would have made you tremble 
for them. You would feel humbled for your former 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 437 

fears, as the effect of your corrupt nature; you would 
have implored strength to overcome them, to expel 
them as a temptation. But a holy and noble fear 
for others, for your children, this you would have lis- 
tened to, this would have given you no peace; this would 
have incited — constrained you to think and do all you could 
to avert the dangers that threatened them . . . With what 
has this fear, this love, inspired you? What have you done 
for them ? What have you thought for them ? ' 
And he ceased, in token of expectation. 




CHAPTER XXVI 

I T such a question, Don Abbondio, who had been 
studying to find some reply in the least precise terms 
possible, stood without uttering a word. And, to 
speak the truth, even we, with the manuscript before us, 
and pen in hand, having nothing to contend with but words, 
nor anything to fear but the criticism.s of our readers, even 
we, I say, feel a kind of repugnance in proceeding; we feel 
somewhat strange in this setting forth, vvdth so little trouble, 
such admirable precepts of fortitude and charity, of active 
solicitude for others, and unlimited sacrifice of self. But 
remembering that these things were said by one who also 
practised them, we will confidently proceed. 

' You give me no answer ! ' resumed the Cardinal. ' Ah, 
if you had done, on your part, what charity and duty re- 
quired of you, however things had turned out, you would 
nov\7 have something to answer ! You see, then, yourself 
what you have done. You have obeyed the voice of In- 
iquity, unmindful of the requirements of duty. You have 
obeyed her pimctually: she showed herself to_you to signify 
her desire; but she v/ished to remain concealed from those 
who could have sheltered themiselves from her reach, and 
been on their guard against her ; she did not wish to resort 
to arms, she desired secrecy, to mature her designs of 
treachery and force at leisure; she required of you trans- 
gression and silence. You have transgressed, and kept 
silence. I ask you, now, whether you have not done more ? — 
you will tell me whether it be true that you alleged false 
pretexts for your refusal, that you mJght not reveal the true 
motive." And he paused awhile, awaiting a reply. 

— The tell-tales have reported this too, — thought Don Ab- 
bondio; but as he gave no token in words of having any- 
thing to say, the Cardinal continued: *If it be true, then, 
that you told these poor people wha,t was not the case, to 
keep them in the ignorance and darkness in which iniquity 
wished them to be ... I must believe it, then; it only re- 

438 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 439 

mams for me to blush for it with you, and to hope that 
you will weep for it with me ! See, then, to what this 
solicitude (good God! and but just now you adduced it as 
a justification!) this solicitude for your temporal life has 
led you! It has led you . . . repel freely these words, if 
you think them unjust; take them as a salutary humiliation, 
if they are not ... it has led you to deceive the weak, to lie 
to your own children.' 

— Just see now how things go ! — thought Don Abbondio 
again to himself: to that fiend, — meaning the Unnamed, — 
his arms round his neck; and to me, for a half-lie, uttered 
for the sole purpose of saving my life, all this fuss and 
noise. But they are our superiors; they're always in the 
right. It's my ill star that everybody sets upon me; even 
saints. — And, speaking aloud, he said : ' I have done wrong ; 
I see that I've done wrong; but what could I do in an 
extremity of that kind ? ' 

' Do you still ask this ? Have not I told you already ? 
Must I tell you again? You should have loved, my son; 
loved and prayed. Then you would have felt that iniquity 
may, indeed, have threats to employ, blows to bestow, but 
not commands to give; you would have united, according 
to the law of God, those whom man wished to put asunder ; 
you would have extended towards these unhappy innocents 
the ministry they had a right to claim from you : God Him- 
self would have been surety for the consequences, because 
you had followed His will : by following another's, you have 
come in as answerable : and for what consequences ! But 
supposing all human resources failed you, supposing no way 
of escape was open, when you looked anxiously around you, 
thought about it, sought for it? Then you might have 
known, that when your poor children were married, they 
would them.selves have provided for their escape, that they 
were ready to flee from the face of their powerful enemy, 
and had already designed a place of refuge. But even with- 
out this, did you not remember that you had a superior? 
How would he have this authority to rebuke you for having 
been wanting in the duties of your office, did he not feel 
himself bound to assist you in fulfilling them? Why did 
ycu not think of acquainting your bishop with the impedi- 



440 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

ttient that infamous violence had placed in the way of the 
exercise of your ministry? 

— The very advice of Perpetua ! — thought Don Abbondio, 
pettishly, who, in the midst of this conversation, had most 
vividly before his e5''es the image of the bravoes, and the 
thought that Don Rodrigo was still alive and well, and that 
he would, some day or other, be returning in glory and 
triumph, and furious with revenge. And though the pres- 
ence of so high a dignitary, together with his countenance 
and language, filled him with confusion, and inspired him 
with fear; yet it was not such fear as completely to subdue 
him, or expel the idea of resistance: because this idea was 
accompanied by the recollection, that, after all, the Cardinal 
employed neither musket, nor sword, nor bravoes. 

' Why did you not remember,' pursued the bishop, ' that 
if there were no other retreat open to these betrayed inno- 
cents, I at least was ready to receive them, and put them 
in safety, had you directed them to me^the desolate to a 
bishop, as belonging to him, as a precious part, I don't say, 
of his charge, but of his riches? And as to yourself, I 
should have become anxious for you; I should not have 
slept till I was sure that not a hair of your head would be 
injured. Do you think I had not the means of securing your 
life? Think you, that he who was so very bold, would have 
remitted nothing of his boldness, when he was aware that 
his plots and contrivances were known elsewhere, were 
known to me, that I was watching him, and was resolved to 
use all the means within my power in your defence ? Didn't 
you know that if men too often promise more than they can 
perform, so they not unfrequently threaten more than they 
would attempt to execute? Didn't you know that iniquity 
depends not only on its own strength, but often also on the 
fears and credulity of others?' 

— Just Perpetua's arguments, — again thought Don Abbon- 
dio, never reflecting that this singular concurrence of his 
servant and Federigo Borromeo, in deciding on what he 
might and should have done, would tell very much against 
him. 

* But you,' pursued the Cardinal, in conclusion, ' saw 
nothing, and would see nothing, but your own temporal dan- 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 441 

ger ; what wonder that it seemed to you sufficient to outweigh 
every other consideration ? ' 

* It was because I myself saw those terrible faces/ escaped 
from Don Abbondio in reply ; ' I myself heard their words. 
Your illustrious Lordship can talk very well; but you ought 
to be in a poor priest's shoes, and find yourself brought to 
the point.' 

No sooner, however, had he uttered these words, than he 
bit his tongue v/ith vexation; he saw that he had allowed 
himself to be too much carried away by petulance, and said 
to himself, — Now comes the storm ! — But raising his eyes 
dioubtfully, he was utterly astonished to see the countenance 
of that man, whom he never could succeed in divining or 
comprehending, pass from the solemn air of authority and 
rebuke, to a sorrowful and pensive gravity. 

' *Tis too true ! ' said Federigo ; ' such is our miserable and 
terrible condition. We must rigorously exact from others 
what God only knows whether we should be ready to yield: 
we must judge, correct, reprove; and God knows what we 
ourselves should do in the same circumstances, what we 
actually have done in similar ones ! But woe unto me, had 
I to take my own weakness as the measure of other people's 
duties, or the rule of my own teaching ! Yet I certainly ought 
to give a good example, as well as good instruction, to others, 
and not be like the Pharisees, who " lade men with burdens 
grievous to be borne, while they themselves touch not the 
burden with one of their fingers." Well then, my son, my 
brother; as the errors of those in authority are often better 
known to ethers than to themselves ; if you are aware of my 
having, from pusillanimity, or from any other motive, failed 
in any part of my duty, tell me of it candidly, and help me to 
amend; so that where example has been wanting, confession 
at least may supply its place. Remonstrate freely with me 
on my weaknesses; and then my words will acquire more 
value in my mouth, because you will feel more vividly that 
they are not mine, but are the words of Him who can give 
both to you and me the necessary strength to do what they 
prescribe.' 

— Oh, what a holy man ! but what a tormentor ! — thought 
Don Abbondio; — ^he doesn't even spare himself: that I 



442 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

should examine, interfere with, criticize, and accuse even 
himself — He then said aloud: * Oh, my Lord, you are joking 
with me! Who does not know the fortitude of mind, the 
intrepid zeal of your illustrious Lordship ? ' And in his heart 
he added — Even too much so. — 

* I did not ask you for praise, which makes me tremble,' 
said Federigo ; ' for God knows my failings, and what I know 
of them myself is enough to confound me; but I wished that 
we should humble ourselves together before Llim, that we 
might depend upon Him together. I would, for your own 
sake, that you should feel how your conduct has been, and 
your language still is, opposed to the law you nevertheless 
preach, and according to which you will be judged/ 

*A11 falls upon me,' said Don Abbondio : * but these people, 
who have told you this, didn't probably, tell you, too, of their 
having introduced themselves treacherously into my house, 
to take me by surprise, and to contract a marriage contrary 
to the laws.' 

^ They did tell me, my son : but it is this that grieves, that 
depresses me, to see you still anxious to excuse yourself ; still 
thinking to excuse yourself by accusing others ; still accusing 
others of what ought to make part of your own confession. 
Who placed them, I don't say under the necessity, but under 
the temptation, to do what they have done? Would they 
have sought this irregular method, had not the legitimate 
one been closed against them? Would they have thought of 
snaring their pastor, had they been received to his arms, as- 
sisted, advised by him? or of surprising him, had he not 
concealed himself? And do you lay the blame upon them? 
And are you indignant, because, after so many misfor- 
tunes, — what do I say? in the midst of misfortune, — they 
have said a word or two, to give vent to their sorrows, 
to their and your pastor? That the appeals of the oppressed, 
and the complaints of the afflicted, are odious to the world, 
is only too true ; but we ! . . . But what advantage would 
it have been to you, had they remained silent? Would it 
turn to your profit that their cause should be left entirely 
to the judgment of God? Is it not a fresh reason why you 
should love these persons, (and you have many already,) 
that they have afforded you an opportunity of hearing the 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 443 

Sincere voice of your pastor, that they have given you the 
means of knowing more clearly, and in part discharging, 
the great debt you owe them ? Ah ! if they have provoked, 
offended, annoyed you, I would say to you, (and need I say 
it?) love them exactly for that reason. Love them., because 
they have suffered, because they still suffer, because they are 
yours, because they are weak, because you have need of 
pardon, to obtain which, think of what efficacy their prayer 
may be/ 

Don Abbondio was silent, but it v/as no longer an uncon- 
vinced and scornful silence : it was that of one who has more 
things to think about than to say. The words he had heard 
were unexpected consequences, novel applications, of a doc- 
trine he had nevertheless long believed in his heart, without 
a thought of disputing it. The misfortunes of others, from 
the contemplation of which his fear of personal misfortune 
had hitherto diverted his mind, now made a new impression 
upon him. 

And if he did not feel all the contrition v/hich the ad- 
dress was intended to produce (for this same fear was 
ever at hand to execute the office of defensive advocate), 
yet he felt it in some degree; he experienced dissatisfaction 
with himself, a kind of pity for others, — a mixture of com- 
punction and shame. It was, if we may be allowed the com- 
parison, like the crushed and humid wick of a candle, w^hich, 
on being presented to the flame of a large torch, at first 
smokes, spirts, crackles, and v/ill not ignite; but it lights 
at length, and, wxll or ill, burns. He would have accused 
himself bitterly, he would even have wept, had it not been 
for the thought of Don Rodrigo; and, as it was, betrayed 
sufficient emotion to convince the Cardinal that his words 
had not been entirely without effect. 

' Now,' pursued he, ' the one a fugitive from his home, 
the other on the point of abandoning it, both with too good 
reasons for absenting themselves, and without a probability 
of ever meeting again here, even if God purposes to re-unite 
them ; nov/, alas ! they have too little need of you, now you 
have no opportunity of doing them any service ; nor can our 
limited foresight predict any for the future. But who knows 
whether a God of mercy may not be preparing some for you ? 



444 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Ah ! suffer tHem not to escape ! Seek them, be on the watch 
for them ; beseech Him to create them for you/ 

^I will not fail, my Lord, I will not fail, I assure you,' 
replied Don Abbondio, in a tone that showed it came from 
the heart. 

'Ah yes, my son, yes ! ' exclaimed Federigo ; and with a 
dignity full of affection, he concluded, ' Heaven knows how 
I should have wished to hold a different conversation with 
you. We have both lived long; Heaven knows if it has not 
been painful to me to be obliged thus to grieve your gray 
hairs with reprim.ands; how m.uch more gladly I would 
have shared with you our common cares and sorrows, and 
conversed with you on the blessed hope to which we have 
so nearly approached. God grant that the language which 
I have been compelled to use, may be of use to us both. You 
would not wish that He should call me to account at the 
last day, for having countenanced you in a course of conduct 
in which you have so unhappily fallen short of your duty. 
Let us redeem the time; the hour of midnight is at hand; 
the Bridegroom cannot tarry; let us, therefore, keep our 
lamps burning. Let us offer our hearts, miserable and empty 
as they are, to God that He may be pleased to fill them 
with that charity which amends the past, which is a pledge 
of the future, which fears and trusts, weeps and rejoices, 
with true wisdom; which becomes, in every instance, the 
virtue of which we stand in need.' 

So saying, he left the room, followed by Don Abbondio. 

Here our anonymous author informs us, that this was 
not the only interview between these two persons, nor Lucia 
the only subject of these interviews; but that he has con- 
fined himself to the mention of this one, that he might not 
digress too far from the principal object of his narrative. 
And, for the same reason, he does not make mention of 
other notable things, said and done by Federigo, throughout 
the whole course of his visitation; or of his liberality, or 
of the dissensions composed, and the ancient feuds between 
individuals, families, and entire towns, extinguished, or 
(which was, alas! far more frequent) suppressed; or of 
sundry ruffians, and petty tyrants, tamed either for life, or 
for some time; — all of them things which occurred more 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 445 

or less in every part of the diocese where this excellent man 
made any stay. 

He then goes on to say how, next morning, Donna Prassede 
came, according to agreement, to fetch Lucia, and to pay 
her respects to the Cardinal, who spoke in high terms of 
the yomig girl, and recommended her warmly to the Signora, 
Lucia parted from her mother, it may be im^agined with 
what tears, left her cottage, and a second time said farewell 
to her native village, with that sense of doubly bitter sorrow, 
which is felt on leaving a spot which was once dearly loved, 
and can never be so again. But this parting from her 
mother was not the last ; for Donna Prassede had announced 
that she should still reside some time at their country house, 
which was not very far off; and Agnese had promised her 
daughter to go thither, to give and receive a more mournful 
adieu. 

The Cardinal was himself just starting for another parish, 
when the Curate of that in which the castle of the Un- 
named was situated, arrived, and requested to speak to him. 
On being admitted, he presented a packet and a letter from 
that noblemian, wherein he besought Federigo to prevail 
upon Lucia's mother to accept a hundred scudi of gold, which 
were contained in the parcel, to serve either as a dowry for 
the young girl, or for any other use which the two women 
might deem more suitable; requesting him at the same 
tim.e to tell them, that if ever, on any occasion, they thought 
he could render them any service, the poor girl knew too 
well where he lived; and that, for him, this would be one 
of the most desirable events that could happen. The Cardinal 
immediately sent for Agnese, who listened with equal pleasure 
and amazement to the courteous message, and suffered the 
packet to be put into her hand without much scrupulous 
ceremony. 'May God reward this Signor for it,' said she; 
* and will your illustrious Lordship thank him very kindly? 
And don't say a word about it to anybody, because this is 
a kind of country . . . Excuse me. Sir; I know very well 
that a gentleman like you won't chatter about these things; 
but . . . you understand me.' 

Home she went as quickly as possible; shut herself up 
in her room, unwrapped the parcel, and, however prepared 



446 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

by anticipation, beheld with astonishment so many of those 
coins all together, and all her own, of which she had, perhaps, 
never seen more than one at once before, and that but seldom ; 
she counted them over, and then had some trouble in putting 
them together again, and making the whole hundred stand up 
upon their edges; for every now and then, they would jut 
out, and slide from under her inexpert fingers; at length, 
however, she succeeded in rolling them up, after a fashion, 
put them in a handkerchief, so as to make quite a large 
parcel, and wrapping a piece of cord several times round it, 
went and tucked it into a corner of her straw mattress. The 
rest of the day was spent in castle-building, devising plans 
for the future, and longing for the morrow. After going to 
bed, she lay for a long time awake, with the thought of the 
hundred scudi she had beneath her to keep her company; 
and when asleep she saw them in her dreams. By break of 
day she arose, and set off in good time towards the villa 
where her daughter was residing. 

Though Lucia's extreme reluctance to speak of her vow 
was in no degree diminished, she had, on her part, resolved 
to force herself to open her mind to her mother in this inter- 
view, as it would be the last they should have for a long 
time. 

Scarcely were they left alone, whenAgnese, with a look 
full of animation, and, at the same tim.e, in a suppressed tone 
of voice, as if there were some one present who she was 
afraid would hear, began : ' I've a grand thing to tell you ; ' 
and proceeded to relate her unexpected good fortune. 

* God bless this Signor,' said Lucia : * now you have 
enough to be well off yourself, and you can also do good to 
others.' 

' Why ! ' replied Agnese, * don't you see hov/ many things 
We may do with so much money? Listen; I have nobody 
but you — but you two, I may say; for, from the time that 
he began to address you, I've always considered Renzo as 
my son. The whole depends upon whether any misfortune 
has happened to him, seeing he gives no sign of being alive: 
but oh ! surely all won't go ill with us ? We'll hope not, we'll 
hope not. For me, I should have liked to lay my bones in 
tny native country; but now that you can't be there, thanks 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 447 

to that villain ! and when I remember that he is near, even 
my country has become hateful to me; and with you two I 
can be happy anywhere. I was always inclined to go with 
you both to the very end of the world, and have ever been 
in readiness; but how could we do it without money? Do 
you understand, now? The little sum that the poor fellow 
had been scarcely able to lay by, with all his frugality, justice 
came, and cleared it away ; but the Lord has sent us a fortune 
to make up for it. Well, when he has found a way of letting 
us know that he's alive, where he is, and what are his inten- 
tions, ril come to Milan and fetch you; ay, I'll come myself. 
Once upon a time, I should have thought twice about such 
a thing, but misfortunes make one experienced and inde- 
pendent; I've gone as far as Monza, and know what it is to 
travel. I'll bring with m.e a proper companion, — a relation, 
as I may say, — Alessio, of Maggianico ; for, to say the truth, 
a fit person isn't to be found in the country at all, I'll come 
with him; we will pay the expense, and ... do you under- 
stand?' 

But perceiving that, instead of cheering up, Lucia be- 
came miore and more dejected, and only exhibited emotion 
unmixed with pleasure, she stopped abruptly in the midst 
of her speech, and said, * But what's the matter with you ? 
Don't you see it ? ' 

* Poor mamma ! ' exclaimed Lucia, throwing her arm 
round her neck, and burying her weeping face in her 
bosom. 

' What is the matter ? ' again asked her mother, anxiously. 

' I ought to have told you at first,' said Lucia, raising 
her head, and composing herself, ' but I never had the heart 
to do it: pity me.' 

* But tell me then, now.' 

* I can no longer be that poor f ellov/'s wife ! ' 

* How ? how ? ' 

With head hung down, a beating heart, and tears roll- 
ing down her cheeks, like one who relates something which, 
though a misfortune, is unalterable, Lucia disclosed her vow ; 
and, at the same time, clasping her hands, again besought her 
mother's forgiveness for having hitherto concealed it from 
her; she implored her not to speak of such a thing to any 



448 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

living being, and to give her help, and facilitate the fulfil- 
ment of what she had promised. 

Agnese remained stupefied with consternation. She would 
have been angry with her for her silence to her mother, but 
the more serious thoughts the case itself aroused stifled 
this personal vexation; she would have reproached her for 
the act, but it seemed to her that that would be a murmur- 
ing against Heaven ; the more so, as Lucia began to depict, 
more vividly than ever, the horrors of that night, the abso- 
lute desolation, and the unhoped-for deliverance, between 
which the promise had been so expressly, so solemnly made. 
And all the while, example after example rose to the recol- 
lection of the listener, which she had often heard repeated, 
and had repeated herself to her daughter, of strange and 
terrible punishments following upon the violation of a vow. 
After a few moments of astonishment, she said, ' And what 
will you do now ? ' 

' Now,' replied Lucia, * it is the Lord who must think 
for us; the Lord, and the Madonna. I have placed myself 
in their hands; they have not forsaken me hitherto; they 
will not forsake me nov/, that . . . The mercy I ask for my- 
self of the Lord, the only mercy, after the salvation of my 
soul, is, that He will let me rejoin you; and He will grant it 
me — ^yes, I feel sure He will. That day ... in that carriage 
. . . Ah, most holy Virgin ! . . . those men ! . . . who would 
have told me that they were bringing me to this, that they 
would bring me to join my mother the next day?' 

* But not to tell your mother of it at once ! ' said Agnese, 
with a kind of anger, subdued by affection and pity. 

* Oh, pity me ! I had not the heart . . . and what use would 
it have been to grieve you so long ago ? ' 

* And Renzo ? ' said Agnese, shaking her head. 

' Ah ! ' exclaimed Lucia, with a sudden start, * I must 
think nothing more of that poor fellow. Long ago God 
had not destined . . , See how it appears that it was His will 
we should be kept asunder. And who knows? . . . but no, 
no ; the Lord will have preserved him from danger, and will 
make him even happier without me.' 

' But now, you see,' replied Agnese, ' if it were not that 
yovL are bound for ever, for all the rest, if no misfortune 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 449 

has happened to Renzo, I might have found a remedy with 
so much money.' 

* But should we have got this money/ replied Lucia, * if 
I had not passed through such a night? ... It is the Lord 
who has ordered everything as it is; His will be done/ 
And here her voice was choked with tears. 

At this unexpected argument, Agnese remained silent and 
thoughtful. In a few moments, however, Lucia, suppressing 
her sobs, resumed : ' Now that the deed is done, we must sub- 
mit to it with cheerfulness; and you, my poor mother, you 
can help me, first, by praying to the Lord for your unhappy 
daughter, and then . . . that poor fellow must be told of it, 
you know. Will you see to this, and do me also this kind- 
ness; for you can think about it. When you can find out 
where he is, get some one to write to him; find a man . . . 
Oh, your cousin,\Alessio, is just the man, a prudent and kind 
person, who has always wished us well, and won't gossip and 
tell tales; get him to write the thing just as it is, where I 
have been, how I have suffered, and that God has willed it 
should be thus; and that he must set his heart at rest, and 
that I can never, never be anybody's wife ! And tell him 
of it in a kind and clever way; explain to him that I have 
promised, that I have really made a vow . . . When he knows 
that I have promised the Madonna ... he has always been 
good and religious . . . And you, the moment you have any; 
news of him, get somebody to write to me; let me know 
ths,t he is well, and then ... let me never hear anything 
more.' 

Agnese, with much feeling, assured her daughter that 
everything should be done as she desired. 

' There's one thing more I have to say,' resumed Lucia ; 
*this poor fellow ... if he hadn't had the misfortune to 
think of me, all that has happened to him never would have 
happened. He's a wanderer in the wide world; they've 
ruined him on setting out in Hf e ; they've carried away all he 
had, all those little savings he had made, poor fellow; you 
know why . . . And we have so much money ! Oh, mother ! 
as the Lord has sent us so much wealth, and you look upon 
this poor fellow, true enough, as belonging to you . . . yes, 
as your son, oh ! divide it between you ; for, most assuredly, 

HO 15— Vol. 21 



450 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

God won't let us want. Look out for the opportunity of 
a safe bearer, and send it him; for Heaven knows how 
much he wants it ! ' 

* Well, what do you think ? ' replied Agnese : ' I'll do 
it, indeed. Poor youth ! Why do you think I was so glad 
of this money ? But ! . . . I certainly came here very glad, 
so I did. Well, I'll send it him ; poor youth ! But he, too 
... I know what I would say ; certainly, money gives pleas- 
ure to those who want it; but it isn't this that will make him 
rich.' 

Lucia thanked her mother for her ready and liberal as- 
sent, with such deep gratitude and affection, as would have 
convinced an observer that her heart still secretly clung to 
Renzo, more, perhaps, than she herself believed. 

* And what shall I, a poor solitary woman, do without 
you ? ' said Agnese, weeping in her turn. 

■ And I without you, my poor mother ! and in a stranger's 
house ! and down there in Milan ! . . . But the Lord will be 
with us both, and afterwards will bring us together again. 
Between eight and nine months hence, we shall see each 
other once more here ; and by that time, or even before it, I 
hope. He will have disposed matters to our comfort. Leave it 
to Him. I will ever, ever beseech the Madonna for this mercy. 
If I had anything else to offer her, I would do it; but she is 
so merciful, that she will obtain it for me as a gift.* 

With these, and other similar and oft-repeated words of 
lamentation and comfort, of opposition and resignation, of 
interrogation and confident assurance, with many tears, and 
after long and renewed embraces, the v^^omen tore them- 
selves apart, promising, by turns, to see each other the 
next autumn, at the latest; as if the fulfilment of these 
promises depended upon themselves, and as people always 
do, nevertheless, in similar cases. 

Meanwhile, a considerable time passed away, and Ag- 
nese could hear no tidings of Renzo. Neither letter nor 
message reached her from him; and among all those whom 
she could ask from Bergamo, or the neighbourhood, HQ 
one knew anything at all about him. 

Nor was she the only one who made inquiries in vain: 
Cardinal Federigo, who had not told the poor woman merely 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 451 

out of compliment that he would seek for some informa- 
tion concerning the unfortunate man, had, in fact, imme- 
diately written to obtain it. Having returned to Milan 
after his visitation, he received a reply, in which he was in- 
formed, that the address of the person he had named could 
not be ascertained; that he had certainly made some stay 
in such a place, where he had given no occasion for any 
talk about himself; but that, one morning, he had sud- 
denly disappeared; that a relative of his, with whom he had 
lodged there, knew not what had become of him, and could 
only repeat certain vague and contradictory rumours which 
were afloat, that the youth had enlisted for the Levant, 
had passed into Germany, or had perished in fording a river ; 
but that the writer would not fail to be on the watch, and if 
any better authenticated tidings came to light, would imme- 
diately convey them to his most illustrious and very reverend 
Lordship. 

These, and various other reports, at length spread 
throughout the territory of Lecco, and, consequently, 
reached the ears of Agnese. The poor woman did her 
utmost to discover which was the true account, and to 
arrive at the origin of this and that rumour; but she never 
succeeded in tracing it further than they say, which, even 
at the present day, suffices, by itself, to attest the truth of 
facts. Sometimes she had scarcely heard one tale, when 
some one would come and tell her not a word of it was 
true; only, however, to give her another in compensation, 
equally strange and disastrous. The truth is, all these 
rumours were alike unfounded. 

The Governor of Milan, and Captain-General in Italy, 
Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova, had complained bitterly 
to the Venetian minister, resident at Milan, because a 
rogue, and public robber, a promoter of plundering and 
massacre, the famous Lorenzo Tramaglino, who, while in 
the very hands of justice, had excited an insurrection to 
force his escape, had been received and harboured in the 
Bergamascan territory. The minister in residence replied, 
that he knew nothing about it; he would write to Venice, 
that he might be able to give his Excellency any explana- 
tion that could be procured on the subject. 



452 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

It was a maxim of Venetian policy to second and cul- 
tivate the inclination of Milanese silk-weavers to emigrate 
into the Bergamascan territory, and, with this object, to 
provide many advantages for them, more especially that 
without which every other was worthless; we mean, se- 
curity. As, however, when two great diplomatists dispute, 
in however trifling a matter, third parties must always 
have a taste in the shape of consequences, Bortolo was 
warned, in confidence, it was not known by whom, that 
Renzo was not safe in that neighbourhood, and that he 
would do wisely to place him in some other manufacture 
for a while, even under a false name. Bortolo understood 
the hint, raised no objections, explained the matter to his 
cousin, took him with him in a carriage, conveyed him to 
another new silk-mill, about fifteen miles off, and pre- 
sented him, under the name of Antonio Rivolta, to the 
owner, who was a native of the Milanese, and an old ac- 
quaintance. This person, though the times were so bad, 
needed little entreaty to receive a workman who was recom- 
mended to him as honest and skilful by an intelligent man 
like Bortolo. On the trial of him afterwards, he found 
he had only reason to congratulate himself on the acquisi- 
tion; excepting that, at first, he thought the youth must 
be naturally rather stupid, because, when any one called 
Antonio, he generally did not answer. 

Soon after, an order came from Venice, in peaceable 
form, to the sheriff of Bergamo, requiring him to obtain 
and forward information, whether, in his jurisdiction, and 
more expressly in such a village, such an individual was 
to be found. The sheriff, having made the necessary re- 
searches in the manner he sslw was desired, transmitted a 
reply in the negative, which was transmitted to the minister 
at Milan, who transmitted it to Don Gonzalo Fernandez de 
Cordova. 

There were not wanting inquisitive people who tried to 
learn from Bortolo why this youth was no longer with him, 
and where he had gone. To the first inquiry he replied, 
* Nay, he has disappeared ! ' but afterwards, to get rid of 
the most pertinacious without giving them a suspicion of 
what was really the case, he contrived to entertain them, 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 453 

some with one, some with another, of the stories we have 
before mentioned: always, however, as uncertain reports, 
which he also had heard related, without having any posi- 
tive accounts. 

But when inquiries came to be made of him by com- 
mission from the Cardinal, without mentioning his name, 
and with a certain show of importance and mystery, merely 
giving him to understand that it was in the name of a great 
personage, Bortolo became the more guarded, and deemed 
it the more necessary to adhere to his general method of 
reply; nay, as a great personage was concerned, he gave 
out by wholesale all the stories \<^hich he had published, one 
by one, of his various disasters. 

Let it not be imagined that such a person as Don Gon- 
zalo bore any personal enmity to the poor mountain silk- 
v/eaver; that informed, perhaps, of his irreverence and ill- 
language towards his Moorish king, chained by the throat, 
he would have wreaked his vengeance upon him; or that 
he thought him so dangerous a subject as to be worth 
pursuing even in flight, and not suffered to live even at a 
distance, like the Roman senate with Hannibal. Don Gon- 
zalo had too m.any and too important affairs in his head to 
trouble himself about Renzo's doings ; and if it seems that 
he did trouble himself about them, it arose from a singular 
combination of circumstances, by which the poor unfortu- 
nate fellow, without desiring it, and without being aware 
of it, either then, or ever afterwards, found himself linked, 
as by a very subtile and invisible chain, to these same too 
many and too imgortant affairs. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

IT has already occurred to us more than once to 
make mention of the war which was at this time raging, 
for the succession to the states of the Duke Vincenzo 
Gonzaga, the second of that name ; but it has always oc- 
curred in a moment of great haste, so that we have never 
been able to give more than a cursory hint of it. Now, 
however, for the due understanding of our narrative, a more 
particular notice of it is required. They are matters which 
any one who knows anything of history must be acquainted 
with; but as, from a just estimate of ourselves, we must 
suppose that this work can be read by none but the ignorant, 
it will not be amiss that we should here relate as much as 
will suffice to give some idea of them to those who need it. 

We have said that on the death of this duke, the first in 
the line of succession. Carlo Gonzaga, head of a younger 
branch now established in France, where he possessed the 
duchies of Nevers and Rhetel, had entered upon the pos- 
session of Mantua, and we may now add, of Monferrat : for 
our haste made us leave this name on the point of the pen. 
The Spanish minister, who was resolved at any com- 
promise (we have said this too) to exclude the new prince 
from these two fiefs, and who, to exclude him, wanted some 
pretext (because wars made without any pretext would be 
unjust), had declared himself the upholder of the claims 
which another Gonzaga Ferrante, prince of the Guastalla, 
pretended to have upon Mantua; and Carlo Emanuele I., 
duke of Savoy, and Margherita Gonzaga, duchess dowager 
of Lorraine, upon Monferrat. Don Gonzalo, who was of 
the family of the great commander, and bore his name, who 
had already made war in Flanders, and was extremely 
anxious to bring one into Italy, was perhaps the person who 
made most stir that this might be undertaken: and in the 
mean while, interpreting the intentions, and anticipating the 
orders of the above-named minister, he concluded a treaty 
with the Duke of Savoy for the invasion and partition of 
^ 454 



, I PROMESSI SPOSI 4SS 

Monferrat; and afterwards readily obtained a ratification 
of it from the Count Duke, by persuading him that the 
acquisition of Casale would be very easy, which was the 
most strongly defended point of the portion assigned to the 
King of Spain. He protested, however, in the king's name, 
against any intention of occupying the country further than 
under the name of a deposit, until the sentence of the Em- 
peror should be declared; who, partly from the influence of 
others, partly from private miotives of his ov/n, had, in the 
mean while, denied the investiture to the new duke, and 
intimated to him that he should give up to him in seques- 
tration the controverted states: afterwards, having heard 
the different sides, he vv^ould restore them to him who had 
the best claim. To these conditions the Duke of Nevers 
would not consent. 

He had, however, friends of some eminence in the Cardinal 
de Richelieu, the Venetian noblemen, and the Pope. But 
the first of these, at that time engaged in the siege of La 
Rochelle, and in a war with England, and thwarted by the 
party of the queen-mother, Maria de' Medici, who, for cer- 
tain reasons of her own, v/as opposed to the house of Nevers, 
could give nothing but hopes. The Venetians would not 
stir, nor even declare themselves in his favour, unless a 
French army were first brought into Italy ; and while secretly 
aiding the duke as they best could, they contented themselves 
with putting off the Court of Madrid and the Governor of 
Milan with protests, propositions, and peaceable or threat- 
ening admonitions, according to circumstances. Urban VIII. 
recomm.ended Nevers to his friends, interceded in his favour 
with his enemies, and designed projects of accommodation; 
but would not hear a word of sending men into the field. 

By this means the two confederates for offensive meas- 
ures were enabled the more securely to begin their concerted 
operations. Carlo Emanuele invaded Monferrat from his 
side ; Don Gonzalo willingly laid siege to Casale, but did not 
find in the undertaking all the satisfaction he had promised 
himself: for it must not be imagined that war is a rose 
without a thorn. The Court did not provide him with nearly 
all the means he demanded ; his ally, on the contrary, assisted 
him too much: that is to say, after having taken his own 



456 AI.ESSANDRO MANZONI 

portion, he went on to take that which was assigned to the 
King of Spain. Don Gonzalo was enraged beyond expres- 
sion; but fearing that, if he made any noise about it, this 
duke, as active in intrigues and fickle in treaty, as bold and 
valiant in arms, would revolt to the French, he was obliged 
to shut his eyes to it, gnaw the bit, and put on a satisfied 
air. The siege, besides, went on badly, being protracted to 
a great length, and sometimes thrown back, owing to the 
steady, cautious, and resolute behaviour of the besieged, the 
lack of sufficient numbers on the part of the besiegers, and, 
according to the report of some historian, the many false 
steps taken by Don Gonzalo; on which point we leave truth 
to choose her own side, being inclined even, were it really 
so, to consider it a very happy circumstance, if it were the 
cause that in this enterprise there were some fewer than 
usual slain, beheaded, or wounded; and, ccBteris paribus, 
rather fewer tiles injured in Casale. In the midst of these 
perplexities, the news of the sedition at Milan arrived, to 
the scene of which he repaired in person. 

Here, in the report which was given him, mention was 
also made of the rebellious and clamorous flight of Renzo, 
and of the real or supposed doings which had been the oc- 
casion of his arrest; and they could also inform him that 
this person had taken refuge in the territory of Bergamo. 
This circumstance arrested Don Gonzalo's attention. He 
had been informed from another quarter, that great interest 
had been felt at Venice in the insurrection at Milan; that 
they had supposed he would be obliged on this account to 
abandon the siege of Casale ; and that they imagined he was 
reduced to great despondency and perplexity about it: the 
more so, as shortly after this event, the tidings had arrived, 
so much desired by these noblemen, and dreaded by himself, 
of the surrender of La Rochelle. Feeling considerably an- 
noyed, both as a man and a politician, that they should 
entertain such an opinion of his proceedings, he sought 
every opportunity of undeceiving them, and persuading them, 
by induction, that he had lost none of his former boldness; 
for to say, explicitly, I have no fear, is just to say nothing. 
One good plan is to show displeasure, to complain, and to 
expostulate: accordingly, the Venetian ambassador having 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 457 

waited upon him to pay his respects, and at the same time 
to read in his countenance and behaviour how he felt within, 
Don Gonzalo, after having spoken lightly of the tumult, 
like a man who had already provided a remedy for every- 
thing, made those complaints about Renzo which the reader 
already knows; as he is also acquainted with what resulted 
from them in consequence. From that time, he took no 
further interest in an affair of so little importance, which, 
as far as he was concerned, was terminated; and when, a 
long time afterwards, the reply came to him at the camp 
at Casale, whither he had returned, and where he had very 
different things to occupy his mind, he raised and threw 
back his head, like a silkworm searching for a leaf; reflected 
for a moment, to recall more clearly to his memory a fact 
of which he only retained a shadowy idea; remembered 
the circumstance, had a vague and momentary recollection 
of the person; passed on to something else, and thought no 
more about it. 

But Renzo^ who, from the little which he had darkly com- 
prehended, was far from supposing so benevolent an in- 
difference, had, for a time, no other thought, or rather, to 
speak more correctly, no other care, than to keep himself 
concealed. It m.ay be imagined whether he did not ardently 
long to send news of himself to the women, and receive 
some from them in exchange; but there were two great 
difficulties in the way. One was^ that he also would have 
been forced to trust to an amanuensis, for the poor fellow 
knew not how to write, nor even read, in the broad sense 
of the word; and if, when asked the question, as the reader 
may perhaps remember, by the Doctor Azzecca-Garbugli, 
he replied in the affirmative, it was not, certainly, a boast, 
a mere bravado, as they say; it was the truth, that he could 
manage to read print, when he could take his time over it: 
writing, however, was a different thing. He would be 
obliged, then, to make a third party the depositary of his 
affairs, and of a secret so jealousy guarded: and it was not 
easy in those times to find a man who could use his pen, 
and in whom confidence could be placed, particularly in a 
country where he had no old acquaintances. The other 
difficulty was to find a bearer; a man who was going just 



458 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

to the place he wanted, who would take charge of the letter, 
and really recollect to deliver it; all these, too, qualifications 
rather difficult to be met with in one individual. 

At length, by dint of searching and sounding, he found 
somebody to write for him; but ignorant where the women 
were, or whether they were still at Monza, he judged it bet- 
ter to enclose the letter directed to Agnese under cover to 
Father Cristoforo, with a line or twd also for him. The 
writer undertook the charge, moreover, of forwarding the 
packet, and delivered it to one who would pass not far from 
Pescarenico; this person left it with many strict charges, at 
an inn on the road, at the nearest point to the monastery; 
and, as it was directed to a convent, it reached this destina- 
tion; but what becam^e of it afterwards was never known. 
Renzo, receiving no reply, sent off a second letter, nearly 
like the first, which he enclosed in another to an acquaint- 
ance or distant relation of his at Lecco. He sought for 
another bearer, and found one; and this time the letter 
reached the person to whom it was addressed. Agnese 
posted off to Maggianico, had it read and interpreted to her 
by her cousin Alessio ; concerted with him a reply, which he 
put down in writing for her, and found means of sending it to 
Antonio Rivolta in his present place of abode : all this, how- 
ever, not quite so expeditiously as we have recounted it. 
[Renzo received the reply, and in time sent an answer to it* 
In short, a correspondence was set on foot between the two 
parties, neither frequent nor regular, but still kept up by 
starts, and at intervals. 

To form some idea, however, of this correspondence, it is 
necessary to know a little how such things went on in those 
days — indeed, how they go on now; for in this particular, I 
believe, there is little or no variation. 

The peasant who knows not how to write, and finds him- 
self reduced to the necessity of communicating his ideas to 
the absent, has recourse to one who understands the art, 
taking him, as far as he can, from among those of his own 
rank, — for, with others, he is either shamefaced, or afraid 
to trust them; he informs them, with more or less order 
and perspicuity, of past events; and in the same manner, 
describes to him the thoughts he is to express. The man of 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 459 

letters understands part, misunderstands part, gives a little 
advice, proposes some variation, says, ' Leave it to me ;' then 
he takes the pen, transfers the idea he has received, as he 
best can, from speaking to writing, corrects it his own way, 
improves it, puts in flourishes, abbreviates, or even omits, 
according as he deems most suitable for his subject; for so it 
is, and there is no help for it, he who knov/s more than his 
neighbours will not be a passive instrument in their hands; 
and when he interferes in other people's affairs, he will 
force them to do things his own way. In addition to all this, 
it is not always quite a matter of course that the above- 
named literate himself expresses all that he intended; nay, 
sometimes it happens just the reverse, as, indeed, it does even 
to us who write for the press. When the letter thus com- 
pleted reaches the hands of the correspondent, who is equally 
unpractised in his a, b, c, he takes it to another learned 
genius of that tribe, who reads and expounds it to him. 
Questions arise on the matter of understanding it, because 
the person interested, presuming upon his acquaintance with 
the antecedent circumstances, asserts that certain words 
mean such and such a thing; the reader, resting upon his 
greater experience in the art of composition, affirms that 
they mean another. At last, the one who does not know, is 
obliged to put himself into the hands of the one who does, 
and trusts to him the task of writing a reply; which, exe- 
cuted like the former example, is liable to a similar style of 
interpretation. If, in addition, the subject of the corre- 
spondence be a rather delicate topic, if secret matters be 
treated of in it, which it is desirable should not be understood 
by a third party, in case the letter should go astray; if with 
this view there be a positive intention of not expressing 
things quite clearly, then, however short a time the corre- 
spondence is kept up, the parties invariably finish by under- 
standing each other as well as the two schoolmen who had 
disputed for four hours upon abstract mutations; not to 
take our simile from living beings, lest we expose ourselves 
to have our ears boxed. 

Now, the case of our two correspondents was exactly 
what we have described. The first letter written in Renzo's 
name, contained many subjects. Primarily, besides an ac» 



460 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

count of the flight, by far more concise, but, at the same 
time, more confused, than that which we have given, was a 
relation of his actual circumstances, from which both Agnese 
and her interpreter were very far from deriving any lucid 
or tolerably correct idea. Then he spoke of secret intelli- 
gence, change of name, his being in safety, but still requir- 
ing concealment; things in themselves not very familiar to 
their understandings, and related in the letter rather enig- 
matically. Then followed warm and impassioned inquiries 
about Lucia's situation, v/ith dark and mournful hints of the 
rumours which had reached even his ears. There were, 
finally, uncertain and distant hopes and plans in reference to 
the future; and for the present promises and entreaties to 
keep their plighted faith, not to lose patience or courage, 
and to wait for better days. 

Some time passed away, and Agnese found a trusty mes- 
senger to convey an answer to Renzo, with the fifty scudi 
assigned to him by Lucia. At the sight of so much gold, 
he knew not what to think; and, with a mind agitated by 
wonder and suspense, which left no room for gratification, 
he set off in search of his amanuensis, to make him interpret 
the letter, and find the key to so strange a mystery. 

Agnese's scribe, after lamenting, in the letter, the want 
of perspicuity in Renzo's epistle, went on to describe, in a 
way at least quite as much to be lamented, the tremendous 
history of that person (so he expressed himself) ; and here 
he accounted for the fifty scudi; then he went on to speak 
of the vow, employing much circumlocution in the expres- 
sion of it, but adding, in more direct and explicit terms, the 
advice to set his heart at rest, and think no more about it. 

Renzo very nearly quarrelled with the reader; he trem- 
bled, shuddered, became enraged with what he had under- 
stood, and with what he could not understand. Three or 
four times did he make him read over the melancholy 
writing, now comprehending better, now finding what had 
at first appeared clear, more and more incomprehensible. 
And, in this fervour of passion, he insisted upon his aman- 
uensis immediately taking pen in hand, and writing a reply. 
After the strongest expressions imaginable of pity and horror 
at Lucia's circumstances — * Write/ pursued he, as he dictated 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 461 

to his secretary, ' that I won't set my heart at rest, and that 
I never will ; and that this is not advice to be giving to a lad 
like me; and that I won't touch the money; that I'll put it 
by, and keep it for the young girl's dowry; that she already 
belongs to me; and that I know nothing about a vow; and 
that I have often heard say that the Madonna interests her- 
self to help the afflicted, and obtains favours for them; but 
that she encourages them to despise and break their word, 
I never heard; and that this vow can't hold good; and that 
with this money we have enough to keep house here; and 
that I am somewhat in difficulties now, it's only a storm 
which will quickly pass over;' and other similar things. 
Agnese received this letter also, and replied to it; and the 
correspondence continued in the manner we have described. 

Lucia felt greatly relieved when her mother had con- 
trived, by some means or other, to let her know that Renzo was 
alive, safe, and acquainted with her vow, and desired noth- 
ing more than that he should forget her ; or, to express it 
more exactly, that he should try to forget her. She, on her 
part, made a similar resolution a hundred times a day with 
respect to him; and employed, too, every means she could 
think of to put it into effect. She continued to work inde- 
fatigably with her needle, trying to apply her whole mind 
to it; and when Renzo's image presented itself to her view, 
would begin to repeat or chant some prayers to herself. But 
that image, just as if it were actuated by pure malice, did 
not generally come so openly; it introduced itself stealthily 
behind others, so that the mind might not be aware of having 
harboured it, till after it had been there for some time. 
Lucia's thoughts were often with her mother; how should 
it have been otherwise? and the ideal Renzo would gently 
creep in as a third party, as the real person had so often 
done. So, with everybody, in every place, in every remem- 
brance of the past, he never failed to introduce himself. 
And if the poor girl allowed herself sometimes to penetrate 
in fancy into the obscurity of the future, there, too, he would 
appear, if it were only to say: T, ten to one, shall not be 
there. However, if not to think of him at all were a hopeless 
undertaking, yet Lucia succeeded up to a certain point, in 
thinking less about him, and less intensely than her heart 



462 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

would have wished. She would even have succeeded bet- 
ter, had she been alone in desiring to do so. But there was 
Donna Prassede, who, bent on her part, upon banishing the 
youth from her thoughts, had found no better expedient than 
constantly talking about him. * Well,* she would say, * have 
you given up thinking of him ? ' 

' I am thinking of nobody,* replied Lucia. 

t)onna Prassede, however, not to be appeased by so 
evasive an answer, replied that there must be deeds, not 
words; and enlarged upon the usual practices of young 
girls, * who,' said she, * when they have set their hearts upon 
a dissolute fellow, (and it is just to such they have a lean- 
ing,) won't consent to be separated from them. An honest 
and rational contract to a worthy man, a well-tried charac- 
ter, which, by some accident, happens to be frustrated, — 
they are quickly resigned; but let it be a villain, and it is 
an incurable wound.' And then she commenced a panegyric 
upon the poor absentee, the rascal who had come to Milan 
to plunder the town, and massacre the inhabitants; and 
tried to make Lucia confess all the knavish tricks he had 
played in his own country. 

Lucia, with a voice tremulous with shame, sorrow, and 
such indignation as could find place in her gentle breast and 
humble condition, affirmed and testified that the poor fellow 
had done nothing in his country to give occasion for any- 
thing but good to be said of him ; * she Vv^ished,' she said, 
'that some one were present trom his neighbourhood, that 
the lady might hear his testim.ony.* Even on his adventures 
at Mikn, the particulars of which she could not learn, she 
defended him merely from the knowledge she had had of 
him and his behaviour, from his very childhood. She de- 
fended him, or intended to defend him, from the simple duty 
of charity, from her love of truth, and, t-o use just the ex- 
pression by which she described her feelings to herself, as 
her neighbour. But Donna Prassede drew fresh arguments 
from these apologies, to convince Lucia that she had quite 
lost her heart to this man. And, to say the truth, in these 
moments it is diScult to say how the matter stood. The 
disgraceful picture the old lady drew of the poor youth, 
revived, from opposition, more vividly and distinctly thart 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 463 

ever in the mind o£ the young girl, the idea which long habit 
had established there; the recollections she had stifled by 
force, returned in crowds upon her; aversion and contempt 
recalled all her old motives of esteem and sympathy, and 
blind and violent hatred only excited stronger feelings of 
pity. With these feelings, who can say how much there 
might or might not be of another affection which follows 
upon them, and introduces itself so easily into the mind? 
Let it be imagined what it would do in one whence it was 
attempted to eject it by force. However it may be, the con? 
versation, on Lucia's side, was never carried to any great 
length, for words were very soon resolved into tears. 

Had Donna Prassede been induced to treat her in this 
way from some inveterate hatred towards her, these tears 
might, perhaps, have vanquished and silenced her; but as 
she spoke with the intention of doing good, she went on 
without allowing herself to be moved by them, as groans 
and imploring cries may arrest the weapons of an enemy, 
but not the instrument of the surgeon. Having, however, 
discharged her duty for that time, she would turn from 
reproaches and denunciations to exhortation and advice, 
sweetened also by a little praise; thus designing to temper 
the bitter with the sweet, the better to obtain her purpose, 
by working upon the heart under every state of feeling. 
These quarrels, however, (which had always nearly the same 
beginning, middle, and end,) left no resentment, properly 
speaking, in the good Lucia's heart against the harsh ser- 
monizer, who, after all, treated her, in general, very kindly; 
and even in this instance, evinced a good intention. Yet they 
left her in such agitation, v/ith such a tumult of thoughts and 
affections, that it required no little time, and much effort, to 
regain her former degree of calmness. 

It was well for her that she u^as not the only one to 
whom Donna Prassede had to do good; for, by this means, 
these disputes could not occur so frequently. Besides the 
rest of the family, all of whom were persons more or less 
needing amendment and guidance — besides all the other 
occasions which offered themselves to her, or she contrived 
to find, of extending the same kind office, of her own free 
will, to many to w^hom she was under no obligations; she 



464 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

had also five daughters, none of whom were at home, but 
who gave her much more to think about than if they had 
been. Three of these were nuns, two were married: hence 
Donna Prassede naturally found herself with three monas- 
teries and two houses to superintend ; a vast and complicated 
undertaking, and the more arduous, because two husbands, 
backed by fathers, mothers, and brothers; three abbesses, 
supported by other dignitaries, and by many nuns, would not 
accept her superintendence. It was a complete warfare, 
alias five warfares, concealed, and even courteous, up to a 
certain point, but ever active, ever vigilant. There was in 
every one of these places a continued watchfulness to avoid 
her solicitude, to close the door against her counsels, to 
elude her inquiries, and to keep her in the dark, as far as 
possible, on every undertaking. We do not mention the 
resistance, the difficulties she encountered in the management 
of other still more extraneous affairs: it is well known that 
one must generally do good to men by force. The place 
where her zeal could best exercise itself, and have full play, 
[was in her own house: here everybody was subject in every- 
thing, and for everything, to her authority, saving Don 
iPerrante, with whom things went on in a manner entirely 
peculiar. 

A man of studious turn, he neither loved to command 
nor obey. In all household matters, his wife was the mis- 
tress, with his free consent; but he would not submit to be 
her slave. And if, when requested, he occasionally lent her 
the assistance of his pen, it was because it suited his taste; 
and after all, he knew how to say no, vv^hen he was not con- 
vinced of what she wished him to write. * Use your own 
sense,' he would say, in such cases ; ' do it yourself, since it 
seems so clear to you.' Donna Prassede, after vainly en- 
deavouring for some time to induce him to recant, and do 
what she wanted, would be obliged to content herself with 
murmuring frequently against him, with calling him one who 
hated trouble, a m.an who would have his own way, and a 
scholar: a title which, though pronounced with contempt, 
was generally mixed with a little complacency. 

Don Ferrante passed many hours in his study, where he 
had a considerable collection of books, scarcely less than 



I PROMESSI SPOSI 465 

three hundred volumes: all of them choice works, and the 
most highly esteemed on their numerous several subjects, 
in each of which he was more or less versed. In astrology, 
he was deservedly considered as more than a dilettante; 
for he not only possessed the generical notions and common 
vocabulary of influences, aspects, and conjunctions; but he 
knew how to talk very aptly, and as it were >jir cathedra, of 
the twelve houses of the heavens, of the great circles, of 
lucid and obscure degrees, of exultation and dejection, of 
transitions and revolutions — in short, of the most assured 
and most recondite principles of the science. And it was 
for perhaps twenty years that he maintained, in long and 
frequent disputes, the system of Cardano against another 
learned man who was staunchly attached to that of Alca- 
bizio, from mere obstinacy, as Don Ferrante said; who, 
readily acknowledging the superiority of the ancients, could 
not, hovv^ever, endure that unwillingness to yield to the 
moderns, even when they evidently have reason on their 
side. He was also more than indifferently acquainted with 
the history of the science; he could, on an occasion, quote 
the most celebrated predictions which had been verified, and 
reason clearly and learnedly on other celebrated predictions 
which had failed, showing that the fault was not in the 
science, but in those who knew not how to apply it. 

He had learnt as much of ancient philosophy as might 
have sufficed him, but still went on acquiring more from 
the study of Diogenes Laertius. As, however, these systems, 
how beautiful soever they may be, cannot all be held at 
once; and as, to be a philosopher, it is necessary to choose 
an author, so Don Ferrante had chosen Aristotle, who, he 
used to say, was neither ancient nor' modern ; he was the 
philosopher, and nothing more. He possessed also various 
works of the wisest and most ingenious disciples of that 
school among the moderns : those of its impugners he would 
never read, not to throw away time, as he said; nor buy, 
not to throw away money. Surely, by way of exception, did 
he find room in his library for those celebrated two-and- 
twenty volumes De Suhtilitate, and for some other anti- 
peripatetic work of Cardano's, in consideration of his value 
in astrology. He said, that he who could write the treatise 



466 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

^De ■Restitutione temporum et motuum ccelestium, and the 
book Duodecim geniturarum, deserved to be listened to even 
when he erred; that the great defect of this man was, that 
he had too much talent ; and that no one could conceive what 
he might have arrived at, even in philosophy, had he kept 
himself in the right way. In short, although, in the judg- 
ment of the learned, Don Ferrante passed for a consum- 
mate peripatetic, yet he did not deem that he knew enough 
about it himself ; and more than once he was obliged to con- 
fess, with great modesty, that essence, universals, the soul 
of the world, and the nature of things, were not so very 
clear as might be imagined. 

He had made a recreation rather than a study of natural 
philosophy; the very works of Aristotle on this subject he 
had rather read than studied; yet, with this slight perusal, 
with the notices incidentally gathered from treatises on 
general philosophy, with a few cursory glances at the Magia 
naturale of Porta, at the three histories, lapidum, animalium, 
plantarum, of Cardano, at the' treatise on herbs, plants, and 
animals, by Albert Magnus, and a few other works of less 
note, he could entertain a party of learned men, for a while, 
with dissertations on the most wonderful virtues and most 
remarkable curiosities of many medicinal herbs; he could 
minutely describe the forms and habits of sirens and the 
solitary phcenix; and explain how the salamander exists in 
the fire without burning; how the remora, that diminutive 
fish, has strength and ability completely to arrest a ship of 
any size in the high seas; how drops of dew become pearls 
in the shell; how the chameleon feeds on air; how ice, by 
being gradually hardened, is formed into crystal, in the 
course of time; with many other of the most wonderful 
s'ecrets of nature. 

Into those of magic and witchcraft he had penetrated 
still more deeply, as it was a science, says our anonymous 
author, much more necessary and more in vogue in those 
days, in which the facts were of far higher importance, and 
it was more within reach to verify them. It is unnecessary 
to say that he had no other object in view in such a study, 
than to inform himself, and to become acquainted with the 
very worst arts of the sorcerers, in order that he might guard 



i PROMESSl SPOSI 467 

against them and defend himself. And, by the guidance 
principally of the great Martino Delrio (a leader of the 
science), he was capable of discoursing ex professo upon 
the fascination of love, the fascination of sleep, the fascina- 
tion of hatred, and the infinite varieties of these three prin- 
cipal genuses of enchantment, which are only too often, 
again says our anonymous author, beheld in practice at the 
present day, attended by such lamentable effects. 

Not less vast and profound was his knowledge of his- 
tory, particularly universal history, in which his authors 
were Tarcagnota, Dolce, Bugatti, Campana, and Guazzo; 
in short, all the most highly esteemed. 

* But what is history,' said Don Ferrante, frequently., 
* without politics? — ^A guide who v/alks on and on, with no 
one following to learn the road, and who consequently throws 
away his steps; as politics without history is one who 
walks without a guide.' There was therefore a place as- 
signed to statistics on his shelves; where, among many of 
humbler rank and less renown, appeared, in all their glory, 
Bedino, Cavalcanti, Sansovino, Paruta, and Boccalini. 
There were two books, however, which Don Ferrante in- 
finitely preferred above all others on this subject; two which, 
up to a certain time, he used to call the first, without ever 
being able to decide to which of the two this rank should 
exclusively belong: one was the Principe and Discorsi of the 
celebrated Florentine secretary; *a great rascal, certainly,* 
said Don Ferrante, *but profound:' the other, the Ragion 
di Stato of the no less celebrated Giovanni Botero ; * an 
honest man, certainly,' said he again, *but shrewd,* Shortly 
after, however, just at the period which our story embraces, 
a work came to light which terminated the question of pre- 
eminence, by surpassing the works of even these two Mata- 
dores, said Don Ferrante; a book in which was enclosed 
and condensed every trick of the system., that it might be 
known, and every virtue, that it might be practised; a book 
of small dimensions, but all of gold ; in one word, the Stafista 
Regnante of Don Valeriano Castiglione, that most celebrated 
man, of whom it might be said that the greatest scholars 
rivalled each other in sounding his praises, and the greatest 
personages in trying to rob him of them; that man, whom 



468 ALESSANDRO MANZONI 

Pope Urban VIII. honoured, as is well known, with mag- 
nificent encomiums; whom the Cardinal Borghese and the 
Viceroy of Naples, Don Pietro di Toledo, entreated to re- 
late, — one, the doings of Pope Paul V., the other, the wars 
of his Catholic Majesty in Italy, and both in vain; that man, 
whom Louis XIII., King of France, at the suggestion of 
Cardinal de Richelieu, nominated his historiographer; on 
whom Duke Carlo Emanuele, of Savoy, conferred the same